Each year, my mother used to advise me to come up with a word that I could use as my guide for the coming year. It could be anything for any reason, as long as I had one. I never made it a point to write down the word or remind myself of it. It was a good exercise, but I simply didn’t put much stock into it.
This year, however, I’m using my word as my guide. Words, actually, as there are two this year. I couldn’t pick just one. After all that happened in 2016, I plan on being an active participant in my future, instead of a passive one.
My words for 2017 are: brave and honest. They can be used in any variation and are, in fact, related.
How many times in your life have you pretended not to like something because it was considered weird? Do you immediately think back to your school days when the opinion of your peers was one of the most important aspects of your life? But we still do it as adults. We wait until we’re around those we’re most comfortable to be our true selves. Why? Why did we decide to stifle our light for the comfort of others? Who does that benefit? Being honest with yourself about who you truly, authentically are is a beautiful thing. Sure, some people might not get it, but it’s not for them to understand.
But being honest with yourself isn’t just about letting your proverbial freak flag fly. Being honest with yourself also means letting go of excuses. If I had to name one thing that really stuck with me from the buddhism class I took recently, it’s this: if you’re going to do something you know you shouldn’t (or, conversely, not doing something you know you should), at least acknowledge that it’s not a good idea. Pretending that it’s a good decision by making up excuses when you know it’s wrong is as bad as it gets. That open and honest line of communication with yourself will help you so much in the long run.
And here’s the segue into my next word. Whether you’re being open and honest about how much you truly want to wear that very hippy batik skirt, or you’re being honest about the true effects of misogyny and hyper-masculinity on our society as a whole, it takes a whole hell of a lot of bravery to do it. You can face ridicule, embarrassment, or even lose relationships depending on the audience. It sucks. Seriously. But the mental and emotional clarity it brings is so important.
What a powerful word. And an objective one. To be brave means completely different things to different people. Hell, it can mean completely different things for me, given the day.
Everyone can agree that women like Malala Yousafzai is brave. We can agree that Rosa Parks was brave. Hell, I can even agree that Lady Gaga is brave! But bravery isn’t always grand acts of heroism that involve (potentially) life-threatening acts of defiance. Most of the time, bravery is small. Most of the time, bravery is doing something that someone else does all the time and takes for granted.
Bravery can mean standing up to say two words in a microphone in front of a crowd at church. Bravery can mean letting someone read your writing that you’ve been working on for years. Bravery can mean admitting to not being a Christian while you live in the south.
Yeah, you’re right. Those are all my small acts of bravery. Did you catch the honesty one at the bottom? I hope so. I wasn’t kidding when I said they go together. But now you see what I mean when I say bravery doesn’t require a fanfare. Sometimes, bravery is getting out of bed, getting dressed, and going out into the world.
Bravery and honesty. These are words I will carry with me through the year, and through my life. They will serve as small reminders to allow myself to be most true self. Because at the end of our lives, be that in a year or 70 years, the only person with whom we leave this earth is ourselves.
In love, light, and peace,