2016 Reflection: Five Word Exercise

I find it to be so interesting when people say, "not much has changed for me this year." When a full 12 months pass, it's nearly impossible to say that no change has occurred. It can be extremely challenging to sit and reflect on your year. Slowly, each passing day lead to yet another occurrence. Each decision you make lead to a new consequence. It is impossible for the human spirit to remain the same. External and internal forces manipulate who we are, how we think, the way we go about our daily lives. With each new year that approaches, reflecting on major events in our lives can help us to draw a connection to all that has changed. How these experiences have impacted who we are, even if we don't truly feel a major change has occurred. Each year, I spend a few weeks contemplating on the hardest lessons that have been learned over the previous 12 months.

Five words. Each year, there are five key words that come full circle. Relevant through it all. The longer I spent on this past year, the more I quickly came to the realization that I have experienced incredible changes in all areas of my life..


1. Value

Mmm. What is the first thing you think about when you hear this word? Level of importance? Worth? Something that may hold weight, proven to be beneficial. This word has lingered on my mind over the course of the last year-- constantly. My self worth. My art. My greater purpose. What value do I actually hold? What makes little old me important to others, to the world? What if my paintings are not worth anything at all? How have I made my own life valuable?

The pressure here can be soul-crushing. Paralyze creativity, wake you in your sleep-- put a complete halt on any free flowing thoughts you may have been working with. One of the greatest lessons I have learned this year, and even for my life-- is to begin living a life that is value based. 

When attending Fall Break Co. a few months ago, speaker Rocky Garza dove into the deep thoughts of identity, roles, and value-based living. While writing this post, I went back to my field notes from his workshop.

For one of the exercises, I had written, "I am not good enough to create something of value."

This word has come full circle for me. It has always been my worst enemy. My greatest fear, my paralysis. As artists, I feel we will continue to struggle with it yearly (daily, even)-- hoping and praying and working in order to shut up those voices of doubt.

"Value-based living trumps doubt. Trumps fear." -Rocky Garza 

2. Boundaries

Boundaries. Comfort Zones. People may create a box and place you in it-- often we even do it to ourselves. We naturally long for comfort. Remaining where we feel needed, loved, and valued. The safety of a straight path may feel welcoming at many times in our lives. 

This past year was a year of boundary breaking; in all areas of my life. I had traveled through out college and earlier years of my life, but had put a stop on it when "real life" kicked in. Graduation, pressure to find a career, bills. I stopped painting. I stopped drawing. I lost myself. There were years of stillness. 

One day, I allowed myself to fall back into who I was. It was a slow process, (it is still a process) but a magnificent one. Traveling to three countries in just a backpack, gaining the creative insight that I thirsted for. Moving 1000 miles from everyone and everything I know to began something new. Something raw, uncomfortable. Leaving my full time teaching career to welcome creativity back into my life; in the form that I loved so much. Having the strength to push fear aside every. damn. day. by setting goals, putting myself + my work out into the world, and by LOVING MY LIFE.

Life begins only outside of our comfort zone. 

3. Attachment

Is there such a thing as a healthy form of attachment? I have never been one to long for material attachments-- my family hadn't raised us in such a way. My much greater problem has always been holding onto emotional baggage; past experiences, pain, and even people. Occurrences that have been trapped inside of me for years, even-- being carried and dragged along as if they have a right to my current mental and emotional state. It can be so unbearably heavy. 

The root of all heartache is this brutal form of attachment. Of course, these emotional responses are what make us human; and emotional depth and understanding is truly a beautiful thing. However, once you experience a realization of an unhealthy attachment, it's imperative that we begin taking small steps each day to free ourselves of that weight. Begin questioning each attachment; work towards finding out why you are clinging so desperately to certain things. This word is a goal I will be striving towards for perhaps the rest of my life. One day at a time..

4. Authenticity 

Remaining dedicated to our truest self, in a world where so many tell you who you should be. There are so many external forces in today's society that push and pull us in a million directions.

The key to happiness. The meaning of success. The definition of beauty. The list goes on and on.

Defining five core values, and remaining true to these factors has changed each and every decision I make on a daily basis. If any of these decisions lead me astray from my core five, it's not meant for me. Slowly compromising what is most important to you will eventually lead to a change in who you are. It can be extremely difficult at times to stand your ground; but remaining authentic to that original voice is really all we have. We are all human. We all feel. We all make mistakes, we all long for acceptance. Authenticity is such a powerful characteristic to have in a world filled with lost connection.


5. Expectation 

A heavy word. One that many of us have been dragging around our entire lives. Worrying about how others perceive us. Allowing others to determine our ambitions, deepest desires, and outlook on life overall. Walking on eggshells, holding our breathe. Embarrassed to speak the truth or tell others how we are feeling. Without even knowing, many of us have had decisions made for us most of our lives. Others planting expectations of what is wrong/right, successful/failure. I ended the last half of 2016 by consciously digging out those hidden expectations-- those that others may have placed earlier in my life-- and chosen to rid myself of anything less than my true longings.

"Being an artist isn't a real job.."

"Aren't you worried about those tattoos closing doors for you in the future?"

"Being confident as a young woman can give off the wrong impression.."

"Spending money to travel rather than settle down is so irresponsible.."

"Aren't you going to start trying to have kids soon? The older you get..." 

All of them, said to me at one point or another. Lodged in my brain, re-emerging during times of doubt. Even as children, these expectations began to settle and take weight in our lives. This will continue to be an uphill battle, but once it is recognized-- we can begin to measure our own values and reach our own individual height of happiness. 

Staying true to this five word exercise each year has changed the way I view the positive and negative experiences that may be taking place through out the course of this life. Dedicating time to focus on the lessons you've learned, areas of growth for the future, and accomplishments of a time period is essential to the human spirit. Cheers to 2017!