Every year in January, I pick a word for the year — a word that will serve as my theme. One year my word was authenticity. Another year the word was discernment. This year, however, I picked the word FREE.
I’ve always liked the word free, in part because free can be used in a variety of ways. Free-spirited. Free will. Freelance. Free speech. Free rein. Back in the 90s when I was a single, working girl, I used to rock out to the song “Free to Decide” by the Cranberries. At the time, that song felt like my own personal anthem. I can still picture twenty-something Crysta driving to work, volume cranked, belting out the lyrics…”I’m free to decide, free to decide…”
So fast forward to 2022. In thinking about words for the year, I decided to choose free. In a way, free sounds like a word with no boundaries…free to do whatever I want. But that’s not the way I viewed my word of the year. I’m a mom, a wife, and a teacher. I’m not free in every way. There are things I can’t do due to various factors in my life. However, this is not what I was thinking when I picked my word. Here’s what I was thinking.
- I’m free to be myself — free to be weird, goofy, funny, serious, quiet, chatty, joyful or sad without apology.
- I’m free to like myself even when (or maybe especially when) the world is sending me messages saying I’m not enough.
- I’m free to make mistakes and make amends. This applies to home, work, and life in general. I don’t have to obsess about being perfect.
- I’m free to like my body, even if I’m a bit heavier than I want to be. My body is strong and healthy, and I don’t have to be a size 2 to feel comfortable in my own skin.
- I’m free to embrace my wrinkles and the physical and emotional scars I bear from being on this earth for a while. Growing old is a privilege, and it’s okay to be grateful for age and experience.
- I’m free to try new things. This year, I’ve changed my hair color at least once, I’ve gotten certified to teach yoga, and I agreed to play in a piano recital again, even though I’m the only adult. I believe with all my heart that we should always try new things, no matter how old we are.
- I’m free to set boundaries — with my students, my family, my co-workers and my friends. This is hard and sometimes painful, but I find myself less resentful when I create some reasonable boundaries. It’s okay for me to expect to be treated kindly.
- I’m free to be creative — to write, to color, to make music. I don’t have to be good at each endeavor, but the doing of the activity is enriching.
- I’m free to learn new things. As a teacher and a human, lifelong learning is very important to me.
- I’m free to step away from things that are not working — jobs, people, activities and so on. Life is too short to spend time on people and things that no longer fill me up.
- Finally, I’m free to live in a place of uncertainty — to question things and allow my perspective to be shifted when presented with new and compelling information.
As 2022 winds down, I realize that I picked an important word for my personal growth. This year when I reminded myself that I was free to do all of the things I’ve mentioned here, I felt lighter, less stressed, less boxed in. I gave myself permission to try new things, to mess up, to make changes when necessary. After all, isn’t that what life’s all about?
“The most important kind of freedom is to be what you really are. You trade in your reality for a role. You trade in your sense for an act. You give up your ability to feel, and in exchange, put on a mask. There can’t be any large-scale revolution until there’s a personal revolution, on an individual level. It’s got to happen inside first.”
― Jim Morrison