Carrie Snyder, at Obscure Canlit Mama, has a tradition of choosing a word of the year at the beginning of each year. It is a word that serves as a theme, or an inspiration, a goal or a summation. Last year’s word, for example, was “stretch,” and here is what she had to say about it in retrospect:
Every word that occurs to me seems to whisper its shadow, its opposite, which I do find sometimes happens with words of the year — one ends up exploring the dark side of, say, stretch, my word for the past year. At times I cursed the choice, feeling stretched way beyond comfort (twisted ankle, head injury) or stretched too thin. But then I reminded myself to stretch, literally, and that felt good. And I did stretch, grabbing onto goals that once seemed out of reach. I wonder how that’s changed me. That’s what I’ve been wondering about most as I think about a new word: how have I changed, and how do I want to change? What do I fear and why? What do I want to give and why? What do I hope to accomplish and why? (The “and why” seems as important as the “what,” even if the answer is very simple, like it was with last year’s word. In order to keep running long distances, I need to stretch, I reasoned. Seemed practical at the time. Still does, I suppose.)
I have found myself thinking about this tradition of hers and her meditation on it quite a bit in these new weeks of the new year.
I love words, and to choose one, just one, seems impossible at best. But there is something about the exercise that I can’t resist, and I keep circling back to the word “citizen.” Of my many and diverse goals, one thing that I want for myself and for my children is for us all to be good citizens.
The idea really came home to me while I was kicking myself for letting the winter get so far on without us all having had our flu shots. I am not avoiding it, or dreading it, nor do I think it’s not necessary. I just haven’t made the time for us all to go and get our shots. And while I was berating myself for this neglect, and telling myself how good I will feel once it is off of my to do list, I realized that what makes me feel so good about getting flu shots is that it makes me feel like a good citizen. I am protecting not just myself and my family, but contributing to community health. Every year, I get a sense of satisfaction not just from having crossed it off the list of things to do, not just from having eliminated a task, but more from having contributed to something.
My definition of citizenship, then, means mostly that we think beyond ourselves and our own needs and think about the bigger picture. It means finding out how we as individuals can maximize our positive impact on our community. It means finding strength by thinking of others.
So “citizen” will be my word of the year this year, and it will be my goal to push out and beyond myself into something bigger.