This time of year everyone is re-evaluating. Whether they are verbal or not, the mind naturally recalls the past twelve months, or longer, to check on the progression of goal attainment and overall achievement. Even when we don’t believe in New Year’s Resolutions, there is something about the human mind that causes us to reflect on our progress just for the sake of doing so. It is quite often that in the midst of this process, we set new goals, change directions in thinking, and congratulate or berate ourselves based on the perceived (self) performance in our lives. This is tradition. It is habitual. It can be downright narcissistic.
But in every way we begin to grade ourselves on our own achievements, we assign an adjective to categorize the breadth of that work. “It’s been a good year,” we might say.
Words like “shitty,” “tough,” and “a roller coaster ride” were all typical responses my mind might echo if the past twelve months had been unsuccessful. Typically if things went relatively well, “good” or perhaps “great” are the catch-all descriptors. Now we associate the ‘Word of the Year’ based on other people’s perceptions, global challenges, political measures, and natural disasters. Instead of the personal self-reflection that was the norm for a good 100 years, if not more, global or national reflection is more commonplace. This shift in trend is indicative of the global citizenry Americans enjoy, and the shifts in migratory patterns that are occurring world wide. Or perhaps Donald J. Trump has a lot to do with it.
I admit, I don’t recall hearing about a ‘word for the year’ before his presidency. The idea, while vaguely familiar, does have a history in the congregation of faith, however. Preachers and teachers in the Word of Faith movement have been sharing a ‘Word for the Year’ for decades. These divinely inspired notions are more prophetic in nature than reflective in scope. The Word for the year tells what Bible believers can look forward to; not glance back at and evaluate.
Writers nowadays put forth their arguments and elocution about this word or that which describes the past, not the future. What, other than yet another reason to write, is the benefit of such a tradition? Self reflection and learning from history are two sides of a coin that must be flipped. But as we look back over our past twelve months collectively and begin to assign a singular word to describe it, we short change the experiences, both collective and individual, that we have actually had. Whether joyous or painful, our collective experience cannot be defined by a singular word. Unless, of course, that word is hope.
Hope is the only word a collective of people can put all their efforts into.
Hope, a noun whose meaning is always forward in progression even while it might have semblances of past reflection tied to it. When a collective accepts a word like “f*ck,” “woke,” “trust,” or “rage,” which are some of the contenders being put forth for Word of the Year, they limit the experience as well as limiting the natural forward thinking that should occur as a part of self reflection. I’d be remiss not to mention that the collective adjective might not truly reflect my personal or individual perceptions of the current state of things, therefore I am forced to indulge in reflective practices about a topic I did not experience, rather than enjoy the fruits of my own experiences, whether good or bad.
This collectivism when it comes to summing up the past twelve months is less useful that the collectivism people living in the same vicinity, or nation, should embrace. This idea of a word of the year, instead of a word for the year, in many ways, can only have a negative connotation when interpreted by the masses.
An individual writer knows intimately the crux of meaning they intended to confer. But interpretation of the written word is so personal an activity, it strains the truly self-reflective mind to rationalize it, bind it into submission, and cause it to have personal meaning. Another indicator of the times we live in is the lack of personal responsibility to practice self reflection as a necessary technique for human growth and development. That’s why my nomination for Word of the Year is hope.
Despite how awful the past twelve months might have been for you individually, or us collectively, let’s have hope it will get better. Even if things were great, let’s hope we can see that outcome again. Hope costs nothing and encourages mindsets to shift toward possibility; not probability. That’s an important distinction. Possibility is part of a growth mindset and brings with it endless interpretation, both individually and collectively. It’s the only Word of the Year any sane person can really put their stock in.