Each year, I choose three words to take through the year with me. They vary depending on the year I’ve just had, the mood I’m in and the way I’m feeling about the year ahead, but they are always useful.
This year, as I made the decision to move all my new year rituals to Imbolc in February for the first time, I’ve had plenty of time to consider them through the quieter month of January rather than the glorious but exhausting chaos of December.
I also started the year with a bereavement, losing my wonderful godmother very suddenly in the second week of January, so it’s taken me longer than usual to settle on my words.
I’ve been feeling, as I’m coming to realise is normal for me after losing someone I love, a weird mixture of bleak (what’s the point of anything if we’re all going to die anyway?) and determined to make the most of life if it’s so fragile -we really do only get one shot at it.
And I think this has definitely had an influence on the words I’ve chosen for this year!
Last year’s words
2022’s words were EXPRESSION, MAGIC and FLOW.
EXPRESSION was a really interesting one – when I chose it towards the end of 2021, I was feeling excited and scared about creating art wholeheartedly and for public view, and had just booked my first exhibition and a writing retreat for the spring – two things which were big steps towards getting things that have been brewing in my imagination for decades out of my head and into the world.
Both the retreat and the exhibition were wonderful, the art I created for the exhibition was a last minute change of mind from the series I’d planned, and worked out beautifully but much darker than I had expected my art pieces to be. But definitely self expression – mermaid tails and books!
Through the rest of the year, expression helped me to talk through my overwhelm, both in my journal and with my friends and family, and then right at the end of the year and into January this year, also to make some changes to my life so I can breathe a bit and refocus.
And finally, I’d been wanting for some time to bring some fun back into my social media posting – I have such a love hate relationship with it and was feeling very “should” about it. And then along came TikTok – I’d been avoiding it for ages, but we started making little videos for Ink Drops and I surprised myself by absolutely loving it. So I signed up for myself, but as my catch-all brand @colourfulmagicalweirdo, so I didn’t have to focus on just one thing or business.
I gave myself permission to play, and despite not liking being on video that much, and having practically no following at all, I have had the MOST fun! No idea if it will have an impact for my business, but it’s so utterly lovely to enjoy creating for a form of social media again, I am counting that as a definite win for Expression!
MAGIC had reappeared from 2021, and is anyway always at the heart of everything I do, even if it’s not explicitly one of my words of the year.
I’m not sure how present it was towards the end of 2022, but on the whole it reminded me to keep an eye on the bigger picture, which was very useful during the overwhelming seasons!
FLOW was also a mixed bag. I chose it mostly because, as the world emerged from the pandemic, I thought 2022 might be the year I got some flow back in my personal work, and also in my systems and routines, not to mention client processes! The actual photography itself is always a flow activity for me, but the constant postponements and date shifts, uncertainty and changes of the past two years were at the forefront of my mind at that point.
And also partly because, having had my ADHD diagnosis in May 2021 and started on meds in the July, 2022 was my first full year with both that knowledge and the meds to see how they might help.
In the end, I did find flow in patches in 2022, but often only by staying up all night to find those little pockets of time where I could, and where I wasn’t supposed to be doing about fifty other things.
During the year I did also start to make inroads into sorting the ongoing chaos of my home, and creating systems and designated spaces for domestic stuff like laundry and dealing with personal admin – making those tasks, and therefore life, flow a bit more smoothly. It’s all still very much a work in progress but it’s getting there.
So overall, I think last year’s words were good ones, and my only mild regret is stamping them onto three separate bracelets instead of my usual one – they looked pretty but they were nowhere near as practical, and the thinner ones are so light individually that I quite often lost one!
This year’s words
So. It’s 2023, I am fervently pretending that January isn’t happening, and I’ve finally settled on my words for the rest of this year. I’ll call them 2023’s words, although I fully intend to be reviewing these next January, rather than this December!
My overriding emotion last year was overwhelm – it became very apparent that with the best of intentions, I had taken on far too much. So the essentials got done, but marketing and social media and actually seeing my friends in real life didn’t, and neither did days off – they were few and far between, and usually because I was either unwell or some kind of minor emergency had happened.
I considered Balance, and also Boundaries – both words I’ve had in previous years that have served me well – but neither seemed quite right.
Then two things happened fairly close together – Carys at Craft Beerings gave me a vintage (1962!) Kenwood Chef, which still works. I brought it home, looked inside it, and promptly fell down a rabbithole of stripping and rebuilding the motor and gears, and refinishing the paint, and generally giving it a new lease of life so it will last another 60 years.
This gave me my first word – RESTORE. Restoring that and my beloved typewriters, but also restoring order from chaos both at home and in my brain, and restoring joy and balance to my life while still creating a sustainable business, and restoring my business to full running order. 2022 was semi-deliberately a quieter year on the photography front, because my Gran moved in with my Mum, and of course because I also started a brand new business in lockdown when I couldn’t shoot, and TEMPRD Chocolate has grown gloriously in the intervening two years!
(I am planning/hoping to share my vintage restoration adventures, along with my home, over at @colourfulmagicalhome on Instagram, if you fancy a peek!)
Shortly after that, I saw the other half of Ink Drops, Annastasia, for our January packing day. Her word of the year is “shed”, as in shedding rather than the garden building, and as we were chatting I realised that what I’m craving is to SIMPLIFY.
Not necessarily in a grow-your-own kind of a way (I am the least green fingered person you will ever meet and can even kill rampant mint!), but in a taking stock kind of a way, and making changes accordingly.
I’m not yet entirely sure how this will pan out, but immediate changes and effects are creating “in” and “out” weeks alternately on my calendar so I actually get some desk time and can also have the meetings I love so much, plus more time for client and personal shoots; scheduling some time for going through my systems and processes so I’m not duplicating work for myself; and joyfully filling a shredding bag from Gosh! with a much larger than usual volume of paperwork I don’t need but which I have been hanging on to “just in case”.
So, SIMPLIFY, RESTORE… and the final word fitted in beautifully, ALIGN.
One result of world events of the past few years is that many small business owners have been operating again from a scarcity mindset – and I am no exception. Knowing I had several months this year too where, for different reasons, I wouldn’t have much time to work on my own business, I ended up in this weird situation of not doing very much in the way of marketing, and when I did it felt a bit forced and not very me.
Extra frustrating, because I know when I relax and am just myself, my business does better, my clients are aligned with me and everything just flows better. I have also noticed a definite tendency to get carried away with enthusiasm and promise the moon on a stick when people ask for it, without actually stopping to think about whether that is the right decision for my long term goals.
So this year’s final word is ALIGN. For re-aligning what I want from life and from my business, making sure that what I put out into the world is aligned with what I want people to know about me and what I do, and above all to remind me to check in with myself before I say yes or no to anything.
I haven’t made my annual bracelet yet, because I keep getting inspired to do it when it’s already a time of day (night) that would be considered antisocial to start hammering, but I’ll post over on socials when it’s done. Probably in aluminium as always, but I might have a sneaky look at silver blanks too – I quite fancy a weighty reminder of these words now I’ve found them, to carry through the year with me!
How about you? Do you choose a word, or multiple words, for the year? I’d love to know what they are if you do!
Come and join us over in the Improper Job Collective and share your words, your planning and your 2023 dreams!