What’s Your “Word” For 2019?

Do you set New Year’s resolutions? I have not been a big fan of resolutions in the past simply because they seem to have a poor stigma surrounding them. Resolutions seem to have become the butt of jokes, a frustration for gym rats, and stress-inducers for those who set them. For awhile I aimed to set goals rather than resolutions. My thought process behind this decision was completely based on definitions. Resolutions are decisions to do or not do things, whereas goals are focused ambitions to achieve a desired result.

Over the last few years, I made goals for myself at the beginning of each year. These goals provided direction, and also allowed me to plan and prepare to take realistic actions for my desired outcomes. Sometimes I realigned my goals throughout the year to better serve my changing lifestyle. Other times I quit on my goals or rolled them over to the next year. There were even a few goals I proudly achieved.

For 2019, I neither set resolutions or goals. Instead, I’ve chosen a single word to bring me guidance throughout the year. It took me some time to narrow down what my one word should be though…

I was talking with a few of my girlfriends this past week on their New Year’s resolutions. Instead of resolving to change or setting goals, each of them had instead chosen a single word to use as guidance for the upcoming year. One had chosen “present” to remind her to be happy with her current place in life and to keep her grounded when thoughts of her past or future may surface. The other chose “content”. She has struggled with finding contentment in her life, either rushing or attempting to persuade circumstances to fit what she feels is best. This ultimately adds more stress to her life, so she has aimed to focus on finding the silver-linings in the here-and-now.

I had heard the idea of One Word before. There’s actually a book called My One Word by Mike Ashcraft and Rachel Olsen which goes in depth on how to choose your word. (I’ve never read the book, but have known a few people who have.) The authors state that choosing your Word is a year-changing process. This process “provides clarity by taking all your big plans for life change and narrowing them down into a single focus. Just one word that centers on your character and creates a vision for your future.”

Melinda Gates, co-founder of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, also begins her years choosing a single word to bring her guidance. In a LinkedIn post on January 1st, Gates explained that this tradition “encapsulates her aspirations for the year ahead.” She focused 2016 around the word “gentle” which helped her fight perfectionism, and 2017’s “spacious” prompted her to make room for the things in life that truly matter. She is doubling on the word “grace” for 2019 as it served her well in 2018.

I love the concept that one Word can set a theme for the year and be a constant reminder to focus on creating positive change in your life.

Looking back, I can roll each year into one word. In 2017 my year was focused on “release.” I released responsibilities, people, and stress from my environment in order to thrive (and in a few circumstances simply survive.) In 2018, “gratitude” was the resounding theme. I was grateful for a new career path and a loving husband and a first home. I was grateful for Life shining bright and for the releases of 2017 to finally make sense.

As I walk into 2019 I have been finding difficulty in narrowing the next twelve months into a single word though. The reason I didn’t make any goals was because I hadn’t considered what they may be — in all honesty, I am very content with my life as it is today and am not sure what more I could aim to achieve.

I considered “contentment” along the lines of my friend. Remaining content can sometimes be a challenge for a long period of time and perhaps that could be more 2019 focus.

I also thought I could narrow my theme to one of the goals I set back on my birthday. However, the whole point of One Word is to encompass a number of aspirations for my future.

I thought some more.

And some more.

I considered “wine”… to which my friends shook their heads and laughed.

So I thought ever harder.

And I realized that as I tried to figure out my intentions for 2019, my Word was right in front of me:

Intention.

Though I am living in a very happy, content bubble at the moment, I acknowledge that much of my life is lived in habit. Each part of my life (whether it be activities, things, people, etc.) has a sort of control over me and I see now I need to take the reigns. Intentionally.

I want to speak intentionally. I want to make intentional decisions. I want to intentionally put my life into action.

Gone are the days where I make significant number of choices simply because. Moving forward, I yearn to live with intention — living with more purpose on purpose. I don’t want to continue getting caught up in the outside noise of Life. You know, the busyness of everyday habits or the control of social media and other’s perceptions. Areas that may quickly spiral out of control if left unhindered and unchecked.

Instead, I want to take every step in my life as a well-thought, well-planned, and well-executed decision. To move my happiness and contentment of Life into the greater plane of joy.

I am aiming towards sustainable joy.

Thus I choose to live with intention.

Have you considered a Word of the Year for yourself? If so, what did you choose for 2019 and why? And if this little blurb made you think about a Word, what are you thinking to focus on in the new year? 

Until next time, friends,

A Letter to My Former Selves

Dear Former Selves,

Today, I turn 25. And although I have made several jokes about keeping my birthday hush-hush, have complained about my back hurting, and even threatened that a quarter-life crisis was about to ensue, I am actually very happy with my age and the woman I am becoming. Thinking back, though, over the past ten years I cannot honestly say this feeling is something I anticipated.

You’re 15 today. You’re 15 and you’re a freshman in high school. You have no idea what you’re doing with your life: you’re playing sports that you don’t care about, you’re allowing that girl who had once been your friend to hurt your feelings on a daily basis, you’re excelling in school with no effort. You’re simply placing one foot in front of the other waiting for the freedom a driver’s license promises and what the next four years of school might bring.

I’m here to tell you that your high school years are not the best times of your life. The sports don’t establish your future reputation, that bully will have no precedence in your life once you graduate, and the friendships you have during those short four years aren’t of any substance. Actually, you only associate with two or three people from high school on a somewhat-regular basis in the future… Your friends during your high school year do not become lifetime friends.

So, in short, high school does not matter.

And when I say high school doesn’t matter, I also mean that the opinions of those in high school do not matter. That guy with the pretty blue eyes who you’re crushing over will never ask you out. In reality, no one will ever ask you out. You’re not flirty. You’re not easy. And you’re not the “ideal look.” I know that may not make you popular now, but that’s a good thing.  Popularity is overrated, and those who were popular in high school tend to fade once those years are over. You’re saving your shine for a much more important time in your life… so don’t fuss.

The only thing that matters is your grades. Keep them up. If you have to compete with Hasse, do so. Compete and win. You’re a smart cookie and that’s what is going to get you to where you need to be after high school is over. So, for now, make memories: go to school dances, goof off in homeroom, try every single sport and club available. Make memories and have fun doing so! You’ll only be in high school once, and even though they are not the best years of your life, you can’t go back and make them up. So make the most of them!

You are worthy of happiness and excitement.

You’re 19 today. You’re 19 and you’re still a freshman, but in college now. You’re presently experiencing a high with the new-found freedom of living on your own, an hour away from home and everyone you once knew. You’ve been granted a Presidential Scholarship, you’re one of the elite Honors students on campus, and you’re quickly making lots of new Facebook friends. You also are in love with the best boy you’ve ever met. But let me forewarn you, you’re about to go through a rocky semester: your roommate and you are not going to be BFFs, your grades are going to slip, and you’re going to go weeks on end without seeing your family and boyfriend.

College is not all its cracked up to be. There are basically two routes: party hard and crash harder or work hard and work harder. I am proud of you that you take the latter route. Your freshman year, in a lack of words, is going to be hell. I remember how many nights you’re going to spend crying. Tears due to loneliness and homesickness and failure.

Stop fretting! Yeah, it’s tough being treated like an outcast by the group of girls you had set out to make your best friends. Yeah, it’s tough actually having to put in the effort to get good grades. But guess what? Life is tough, and you learned that lesson a lot quicker than most of your peers. You’re going to make it through this “year from hell”.

In actuality, I only have a few regrets from this college year. One is that I ever let one person, especially a roommate who I hardly knew, dictate my entire freshman year. A second is that I didn’t push myself harder in classes to truly show what I was capable of to my professors and peers. A third is that, instead of going out and attempting to meet different friends, I allowed my failure at befriending a certain group of girls to throw me into such a depressed individual. Perhaps this doesn’t make sense now, but when the chances arrive, I wish you would simply NOT. Not let your roommate dictate the year, not take the easiest routes in your studies, and not put all your effort into meaningless relationships. I’d also add that you should just start off at WMU and not transfer next year, but we both know that can’t happen now so…

You are worthy of true friendship and high self confidence.

You’re 22 today. Somehow, someway, you’re in your final year of college. You didn’t think this year would ever come! You’re working two part-time jobs, paying a lot of tuition to work at an unpaid internship, and attempting to finish your schooling within four years. Thankfully, the stress is manageable because you’re newly engaged and ecstatic about spending the rest of life with this wonderful guy in your life… oh how soon things will change.

I wish I could send you some words of advice to help ease the impending heartbreak you’re about to endure. Not only will you be losing the carefully planned future you’ve drawn up in your mind, but you’ll also be losing one of your only friends. You’re going to want to quit. You’re going to want to give up. But I’m here to show you that you can’t… that you won’t.

I don’t have any advice on how to make the loss of X any easier. And in all honesty, I don’t want it to be easier. I know that might sound cruel, and in a few months you’re going to be cursing me, but hear me out: X leaving you is the best thing to ever happen to you. I know, I know, I sound crazy. Yet, I will stand here until my dying day saying the same thing. Without that awful heartbreak you would never have realized what a broken person you were inside. You were so dependent on X that you were only a shell of the person you should have been. You were shy and you were reticent. You bottled up your emotions until you were a sobbing, shivering wreck of a girl. You closed yourself to new relations and friends, you focused solely on a future X and you designed and never opened yourself to other possibilities in life.

You were weak.

When X leaves you, you are going to feel like the light has been snuffed out of your soul. It’s going to hurt more than words can express, and I am so sorry. But you are a phoenix, my dear! Out of the ashes, a new life is going to appear and you are going to be startling. Just you wait, your strength and fire are something to challenge every fiber of the world around you in the future.

You are worthy of someone worthy of you.

You’re 24 today. You look in the mirror and am surprised at the girl in front of you. The tear stains of the past have been washed away, the heartache of lost friendship and love has been mended into a lasting smile, and the weariness of the future doesn’t cause you to slouch anymore.

The biggest change, though, cannot be seen on the outside. No, the biggest change is inside your heart. Two months ago you made a courageous step, and I am so, so proud of you! Two months ago you visited a new church — a church where people your own age congregate and worship together. That visit turned into weekly attendance and now you are hosting a Bible Study group at your home. For someone who only months ago questioned if God truly cared about her because of all the supposed pain He had put her through… this. Is. Huge.

Looking back, all those trials you went through only support how much God cares about you. Every single bump in the road made you a stronger, smarter, and savvier woman, something not to be taken lightly in today’s world. His Hands are on every moment and there is peace in that recognition. You’re going to need that knowledge for the year ahead…

I once thought the year following X’s departure was the hardest year we’d ever have to experience. I actually wish that were true, my dear. No, this next year is going to be much tougher. Loss of a romance is the sort of heartbreak that is fixable after time and healing. Loss of a loved one — true loss — is not able to be mended. The pain of death may decrease with time, but that hurt is never truly gone. You’re about to experience this firsthand on several occasions over the next year. And you are going to scream from the pain your heart feels on more than one occasion.

Luckily, you have reopened your heart to the best medicine Life has to offer: God. And, for some reason still unknown to me, He has granted you with people — your parents, M, Wilbur, Panda, House — to give you the strength you need to move forward even in your pain. Do not take these people for granted, Ash. They are the greatest blessings in your Life. Focus on keeping momentum and pushing past all thoughts of what you could have said or done. The past is the past and can’t be changed; those you lose over the next year knew how important they were to you and that’s a joy in itself. Use their losses to spur your heart into action and continue their legacies. Do the best you can, they would be proud of you for that.

You are worthy of God’s grace and peace in Life.

I’m 25 today. I have a lot still to learn, but I also have much experience under my belt. As I enter the next quarter century of my life, there is a lot I plan to do: pursue a rewarding career, set my roots and grow a family, increase my community impact, read more and complain less, be more active, and be more thankful. As I have become prone to saying here on Peonies ‘n Mint: I really have lost some and gained more.

Thank you, friends, for joining me in my Life travels so far… cheers to the next year and, God willing, many more!

Giving Due Credit to Love and Present

It seems to me that people make a big deal about firsts: first kiss, first date, first love. Don’t get me wrong, a First is great, but it also generally leads to another first: heartbreak. I was relatively naive with my first love; I had no real understanding that all love stories tend to end, and many of them do not end in “death do us part.”

So my first heartbreak caught me completely off guard. I was innocent and pure and, as stated, naive so my heart was (figuratively) ripped out at the hand of someone I had genuinely trusted. Insecurities took hold of my life, but in the grand scheme of all that is good, something better came along. That is why I consider my first love simply that, my First Love, but definitely not my greatest or my last

This post is dedicated to second loves — or theoretically thirds, or fourths, or however many loves it takes to find that one true Last Love. Why should we spend so much time gushing over our first loves, and pining into our elder years at the times lost with them? Seriously! Second loves should be getting the credit on our romantic timelines! Second loves matter more than the first by a long shot, so give due credit where credit is due.

Your second love is the one who came along and picked up the pieces of your broken heart. He or she waited patiently on the sidelines as your innocent self went through the stages of loss and became wise to the perils of love. When those insecurities after your break up left you wondering if you were too imperfect and impossible to ever be whole again, your second love came and pushed those thoughts away. He or she led you to see and to believe how extremely worthy you are to be loved.

Your second love will not be the same as your first. And it’s okay. Every person you meet will have a different effect on you. The notion that we should have similar feelings of affection for every person we become romantic with is false. Romance is not a journey with a set destination and stopping points along the way.

Maybe your first love began as a friendship-turned dating, a lead up to the first kiss, the first time saying “I love you” to one another, certain big anniversary celebrations or date nights, vacations together, all accumulating to the next stage or perhaps moving in together or becoming engaged. If you believe your second love is going to follow the same exact path, you are wrong.

First off, there should be no end game. Do not fear that you are never going to experience love again so you rush through the second time. Sometimes such fears cause us to love two people the same exact way, or project our disappointments from our first love onto our second. Why do we accept that we can only give one kind of love?

Love is not a thing that can be better or worse, and this is why you should never love anyone the way you loved someone else. Love is supposed to grow over the course of a lifetime, it is supposed to breathe and change. Love will never be perfect, but this does not mean you should ever just sink to a faded photocopy of the real thing.

Think of it like this: your first love was a car. You and your ex built this car with parts from both sides, your’s and their’s. You both created something, revved it to life, and drove it for a number of miles. However, over time, a flat tire happened, the windshield cracked, and potholes in your relationship caused the alignment to get out of whack. The car broke and became too obsolete to be useful anymore.

Now you’re beginning a relationship anew. Why would you take parts from the old broken-down car to build a new one? Start fresh! Use the knowledge you gained from your first mechanical endeavor to fashion something new and strong and sturdy.

A second love gives you reason to continue to believe in love. A second love shows you that even when you had love and heartbreak that you can also love after heartbreak. How incredibly important for all those mending hearts!

As humans, we feel stronger when we know that we can weather worse. We cope with comparison. And sure, the ultimate goal of being in a relationship is to feel love and to fall in love. Love is not about winning and losing though, nor is it about being better or worse. The revelation that you fell in and out of love once and survived, and then you found the ability to fall in love again… that is what love is: an ability. And that’s a pretty powerful ability to control.

If you see something that remind you of your first love and you feel something – sadness, anger, longing – remember that you are experiencing pangs of nostalgia. Your first love was good. All of our first loves are good. Until they are not anymore — so let it stay good in the past.

Don’t let that past own you though. If you try to love your second love in the same way, your past will manage your present. Don’t let this happen; love someone in a way you never loved your ex. Your past had it’s moment, allow the present to shine now.

10 Reasons I’m Happy

Happiness.

It’s the term I most often use when asked what I am looking for in life. A loving partner, a meaningful purpose, a high-paying job, and endless world travel are also some things that come to mind, however all of these are means to that ultimate end: happiness.

It seems to me that a lot of people would answer this same way, and upon thinking about the things that make me happy and talking with those around me, I’ve compiled a list of traits which bring out genuine happiness in people.

1. Belief in a greater meaning to life
Whether you believe in a specific religious belief or a spiritual ideal, the fact that you in something seems to matter in terms of happiness. To me, religion provides a personal creed, a direction in life, and a sense of purpose which allows me to know that once my time on earth is over I will have further meaning.

2. Do not take material objects for true wealth
Money is the root of all types of evil, right? For people who are genuinely happy, material objects are not the only purposes to life. I’m not denying that happy people don’t need money to exist, and that working a job which earns you money is not important. What I am saying is that when it comes down to it, money does not dictate happy peoples lives. Though I am sensible with my earnings, I will never let money or possessions prevent me from pursuing a passion.

3. Love themselves for who they are
I am far from being egotistical, but it truly is important to be comfortable with your own abilities to truly be happy. Even if you continuing to work in certain areas, always accept and embrace yourself in every manner possible. Keep true to yourself and don’t delve in what some may define as weakness.

4. Relationships are not the basis to life
If you’ve ever read my blog, you know that my relations with those around me help turn my world. The saddest time in my life was when I let the presence or absence of someone determine my well-being. Since I’m come to the realization that relationships are an extension to my life rather than a basis, though, my happiness level has soared. I am content with myself, and my friendships are simply an extension of that self-content. I no longer look for people to fill voids in my life or to help me feel a certain way. Instead, I surround myself with people who bring out the characteristics in myself that I like, and I can be happy with knowing that’s enough.

5. Welcome change
Some people cannot even switch from Windows 7 to 8 without a major breakdown. So it’s important to remember that life is a constant lesson with suggestions and criticism being thrown around continuously. You will be a much happier person when you welcome all of life’s random happenings and approach them with consideration and respect, rather than defensively.

6. Figure out own solutions and direction
I have never been afraid of change, but I think I genuinely became happiest when I began to operate under the realization that change starts from within. I have tried so many different mantras and practices for making my life better, and though some may not have became part of my daily routine, the act of consciously deciding to support and attempt them was enough to give me direction and goals for awhile. It’s a case of free will and the fact that I was able to make such decisions increases my happiness.

7. Do not compare themselves to others
Jealousy is not a good thing, guys. Everyone has something different and exciting to offer the world, and when you finally decide to embrace your own talents and specialties you will be so much happier! I am a HUGE perfectionist and tend to compare myself to others quite often. However, I can attest that when I come out of my slump and recognize all I can accomplish myself, my heart feels surprisingly light.

8. Victor, not a victim
Nothing makes me angrier than hearing a person complain about the injustices done to them. I mean, we all go through unexpected break-ups and failures in the workplace. Some of us even experience more serious issues. However, what good does it do to dwell on these things? Being a victim does not strengthen you! Receiving sympathy does not strengthen you!

9. Live in the present
To me, there is no point in reminiscing about the past and fantasizing about the future. I mean, yes, I find myself doing it. A lot. But really, what can I do about either when I’m living right here, right now, in the present? I prefer to realize this fact, and use it as motivation to make the most out of my life. It’s much easier and healthier to live in the present — you can focus on what is happening at hand rather than worrying about regrets from the past or concerns over the future.

10. Engage in purposeful activities
Nothing makes me happier than doing something I love and I know has meaning. Whether that mean I love my job, I’m participating in a volunteer opportunity, or I’m simply sitting down and writing a blog post, I’m happy. So it’s simple; find something you genuinely enjoy doing and do it!

I find myself being happier every day I live. I am surrounded by loving and caring people, I enjoy my work and free time activities, and I strive to be the best person I can to help move that happiness forward. Everyone has bad days, but mine seem to be rare and far between. I am so eternally grateful and humbled.

Do any of these characteristics play a part in your own happiness? I find it amazing how different people can be but yet how similar as well. The world is a big place, but when you stop to think about simple matters (such as what makes you happy) then the world can become a bit smaller.