Deep in my shelves is a steadily widening row of TN archive binders, stuffed with planner inserts, sketchbooks, mind dump catalogues and collage. Stamped on each binder’s spine is the calendar year it contains, along with a single word. I first heard about this way of setting intention through Emil, who heard it from someone else: the idea of naming the coming year. I don’t think of this like setting a typical resolution with a concrete goal. It’s more of an intuitive stab in the dark at some shadowy, hefty questions:
What do I need from this year?
What am I searching for? (This can mean in one or several aspects of life.)
In the present moment, what does the future feel like?
There’s no pressure to make an accurate prediction or forecast here. Frankly, these days, it is probably healthier not to try*. It’s also okay if it’s not the beginning of the year when you pick the word. I’m writing this in mid-January, after all. Sometimes the word that resonates the most doesn’t reveal itself until a few months in. I treat it like the title of a book—you get a sense, a whiff, of the story inside, but remain open to surprises and plot twists.
In case you want to try choosing a word of the year and would like some examples, here are my plot summaries:
2018 - Conviction
Not as in “criminal”, but as in “strong belief”. This was the year I was applying for grants and looking, slightly desperately, for jobs. I actually didn’t choose “conviction” until May or so, when I’d already faced a couple rejections and ghostings. This year taught me the hard way to believe in my work anyway—that it is meaningful, that a place for it exists in the world, and that it is possible for me to take it there.
2019 - Flow
This word was easy to choose. My book production due dates made it clear I’d need to establish good routines and habits to keep moving through the schedule and daily life with ease. What did surprise me, though, was that the lessons of “flow” also came in a big way from outside work entirely: swing dancing. The same things that make a partnered dance feel light, fun and like it just works—frame/structure, attentive connection to others, flexibility, a give and take of energy, a willingness to laugh off the fumbles—are the exact same things needed to sustain momentum and mental health over a long project.
2020 - Mastery
As I approached the most physically and mentally demanding stage of my work, I figured discipline and technique would be my focus of most of the days ahead. Well, that was early 2020, and we know what happened next. The year of “mastery” became about a lot more than time management and economy of line. When I flip through this binder, I see how very much needed to be learned about controlling and releasing emotions, holding onto hope in the face of intense fear and tending to myself so I could extend care and energy to others.
2021 - Underground
While the previous years’ words were all work and process-oriented, this one was just based on an impulse I had that I’d need a time of retreat, solitude and laying low. That might seem strange, because 2021 was the year the book came out and actually involved more public-facing tasks than years past. But at the same time, I found myself digging up and rediscovering music and books I loved as a kid or a teen. I also started going to therapy, maybe the ultimate form of internal excavation. I felt two parts of me traveling in parallel: one out in the air, excited and vulnerable, and another tunneling inward, looking quietly for buried treasure.
And this year? For me, it’s called Driftwood. A time of calm assessment after last year’s frenzy, of continuing to sift through debris for things that look useful or worthwhile. Picking up each shell that appears in search of 2022’s song or story, which, held up to the ear, with time, patience and effort, I hope to understand.
Text and photos by: A.C. Esguerra
Where to find A.C. : instagram @blueludebar
Read other stories by A.C. : Here
* Here are some excellent articles about what might really be going on in our heads when we set New Year’s resolutions, and how to be kinder to ourselves about it:
- You Can’t Simply Decide to Be a Different Person - Amanda Mull, The Atlantic
- Have It Your Way (Really, You Can Do That) - Kate McKean, Agents & Books
BK Artifacts featured: