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Word of the Year: Find Empowerment Through Words in 2020

Someone very close to me once told me that she had a ‘Word of the Year’ that she reminded herself of frequently throughout 2019. She wanted this word to be a common theme within herself and the life she leads.

She said it frequently to me, too. Often when I needed the reminder that her word carried. The constant reminder of one specific word, which carried the weight of an entire year, was profound. 

So here we are, the first month of 2020, and I’m thinking, “Damn, everyone needs a word of the year.” 

Here’s why. 

It’s common to see the basic, “new year, new me” Facebook post, or for that one friend to say she’s going to work out more and eat better, or for your brother to say he’s finally going to get that job — but the truth is, New Year’s resolutions only last as long as the year is new, and then we fall back into our old patterns. (Well, most of us, that is. If you can keep a New Year’s resolution for the whole year, kudos to you.)  

I think that there are so many different paths each year can take us down. So many things change in a year. We lose people and we find people, we can lose ourselves and we can also find ourselves. And, amidst all of the losing and finding, and all of the chaos of day to day life between school, work, relationships, family, etc., we can often forget what it means to be human — what it means to be alive. Sometimes that is our biggest downfall. 

We complicate life. That is how we fall. By picking one word to live by, to remind ourselves of, to stitch through the next 365 days — we allow ourselves one piece of simplicity and meaning.

And as it turns out, choosing a ‘Word of the Year’ is a pretty common practice. Like my friend, many do it for personal reasons and individual growth, whereas some companies, nonprofits, or other organizations choose one for advertising, campaigns, etc. 

Starting in 1991, the American Dialect Society has deemed a word (or a few) to be the ‘Word of the Year’ in the United States each year. 

Some terms over the years have had deep-rooted meanings, while others are lighthearted.

For example, in 2001, the ‘Word of the Year’ was “9-11.”

But in 2009 the word was “tweet.”

The 2017 ‘Word of the Year’ was “fake news.” (As an aspiring journalist, I think I’ll keep my mouth shut about that one.) 

The words that the American Dialect Society chooses each year encompass said year through the people and media. 

There are plenty of campaigns that encourage the ‘Word of the Year’, too. And rightfully so! Ditch the resolution and pick a powerful word. It’ll do more than you think. 

I sent out an anonymous poll on my social media asking people what ONE word they’d like to live by. I got responses that ranged from wildly inappropriate (thank you, immature teenagers) to meaningful and noteworthy. 

Some of the responses I got: momentum, love, commitment, growth, integrity, and possibilities — to name a few. 

( Photo by Jez Timms on Unsplash )

Each word is for your own interpretation. 

Maybe the person who sent “momentum” wants to be bolder in 2020. The person who sent “love” might want to love harder, better, or more openly. “Possibilities” might be a reminder to seize the opportunity, to relish in the new.

And that one word, your word, can be incredibly empowering.

Take some time to think about it; I bet it’ll come to you. And once you have your word, write it down. Write it on the cover of your crisp new 2020 planner, on a sticky note above the light switch. Write it in sharpie on your forearm — heck, get it tattooed. Whatever you need to do to be constantly reminded of that one word and what it means to you.

In fact, the MyIntent Project is an organization that encourages meaningfulness and positivity through one word. You can get a bracelet or necklace with your word engraved on it. Check it out:

Lucky for me, I’ve got someone who will remind me of my word AND hers. She has yet to find out that my 2020 word is “equanimity.”

/ˌekwəˈnimədē/ (n.) / mental calmness, composure, and evenness of temper, especially in a difficult situation.
“she accepted both the good and the bad with equanimity
(Definition from Oxford Dictionary)

It means composure, a calm state of mind. Synonyms include presence of mind, tranquility, and self-assurance. As someone who frequently finds herself in dark and twisty places, hard-to-get-out-of mindsets, and anxiety-ridden thoughts — I think I could use some equanimity.

Between work, deadlines, graduation, college, and a million other commitments that I have stretched myself so thin for, I’d like to find time for some peace of mind. My mental health will thank me for it later.

The lesson? Empower yourself in 2020. Find your word, and carry it with you. A simple, yet incredibly profound way to be nothing but human: always learning, growing, and improving.

I can’t wait to hear what my friend’s new word of the year is. One thing is for sure, it’ll be a good one. She’s got a way with words. 

In fact, her word for 2019 was “empower.” 

Happy New Year. 

Here’s to finding equanimity.

Madisyn Gentry

Madisyn Gentry was born and raised in Greeley, CO. Growing up in colorful Colorado has been the perfect place for her to explore, spend time reading under big trees, and enjoy the outdoor sun. She is currently a senior in high school, set to graduate in May 2020. Gentry is a very outspoken individual. She leads her life in kindness and uses her voice, both out loud and in writing. She is a climate activist, she advocates for equal rights for all, and works relentlessly to empower the ones around her. She will be attending the University of Missouri in Columbia, MO in fall 2020 to study journalism. She currently writes for her local newspaper, The Greeley Tribune. Informing her community and beyond is a passion she has been chasing for quite some time now. Gentry has four younger siblings, all of whom she adores more than life itself. Each one of them serves as a reminder to her that family is one of the most important pieces of our journey here on earth. Through her writing, Gentry hopes to touch the lives of her community, and someday, the world.

This Post Has One Comment

  1. William Newcomb

    My word or phrase of the year has probably been the same for most of mine… “mistakes don’t define who you are”
    I’d say most importantly, learn from them and hopefully someday you can rectify them. Never forget no matter how much it hurts because the reminder keeps you on the right path. Mistakes can lead to great things.

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