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Explore | One Little Word 2018

For the last several years, I’ve participated in a workshop called One Little Word. The point of the workshop is to pick a word to guide your year, then revisit it each month through a series of creative prompts. I’m not always great at the prompts, but I’ve loved the process of choosing a word and seeing where it takes me. My past words — curatenurture, and open — have all been important and helpful and challenging in the years that I’ve chosen them.

I didn’t really pick a word in 2017, although a word ended up finding me anyway — “persist.” It was a year of putting my head down and moving forward after widowhood and unemployment seemed to throw my life entirely off course. It was a year of learning to recognize when it is time to rest, and of learning when it is time to hunker down to do the work as well as you can and for as long as you can, knowing that doing the work is the only thing we have control over. Persist is not an exciting word, but sometimes it is the best we can do.

As the end of 2017 approached, I was pretty convinced my word was going to be “present,” and that my energy for the year would be on learning and relearning how important it is to be focused on and engaged with the tasks in front of you instead of fretting about what might come next. I thought that this year would be about trying to put that knowledge into action in some new and challenging ways.

But as the end of the year got closer, I kept feeling like “present” wasn’t quite the right fit. I couldn’t see how to stretch that word into all areas of my life, and in some areas I actually wanted to do more than just be present. I wanted to be more, to try more, to be engaged and curious as well as present.

So I went back to the drawing board. I looked through the quotes I’d been bookmarking, the Etsy stickers that I’d been saving, and the activities in my life that have been giving me the most joy right now, to see what they might have in common. Lo and behold, a theme came through and my word seemed obvious… “explore.”

In late 2017, I signed up to take a watercolor painting class with my sister. I’m not artistic and I’ve never painted before, but I got it in my head that I wanted to try it. We found a class through a local community ed organization, bought our supplies, and started spending Monday nights in the studio.

There’s so much about this decision that makes me happy. I love being a novice at something. I love doing an activity with no expectations of success, and with no consequences for failure. I love doing something tactile that uses different parts of my brain than I use in most of my other hobbies. I love that watercolor, in particular, challenges me to be patient and to accept imperfections.

I want more experiences like watercolor class. I want to give myself space to explore new things, and to see how I can give familiar things a fresh energy and perspective. I want to get off my computer and out into the world. I want to approach my new job with a spirit of constant experimentation and a willingness for things to fail. I want to declutter my physical spaces to create flexibility, and I want to settle my monkey mind so I can be open and curious. I want to be a person who feels like the world is a place worth exploring, not person who constantly worries about how the world can crumble underneath her feet. It takes a lot of faith to be an explorer, but I want to try and find that for myself again.

Each year, I tried to find a quote or manta to go along with my word and help guide the year ahead. This year’s mantra comes from a Mary Oliver poem:

“Instructions for living a life.
Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it.”

{ 23 comments… add one }
  • Kay January 18, 2018, 8:28 am

    I think this is wonderful. Truly. My best wishes for your journey of ‘exploration’ this year. The watercolor class sounds lovely. I am so not a creative person at all, but I think it’s a great way to ‘calm the mind’. I need more of that myself. Take care.

    • Kim January 23, 2018, 5:53 pm

      I don’t really think of myself as creative either, but this has been a wonderful outlet for just messing around — something I didn’t realize I needed until I was doing it.

  • Lisa January 18, 2018, 9:17 pm

    My sister moved this year, eight hours away from all of her support systems and the friends she’s had for life. To become familiar with her new area, to become a part of the community, she took up the mantle “Lora The Explorer.” She has had so many great adventures by thinking of herself as an explorer. And, it turns out, Lora the Explorer will put herself out in ways that regular Lora might not. Good luck with all of your explorations!

    • Kim January 23, 2018, 5:54 pm

      I love that idea! I haven’t done as much exploring my area as I would like to, although I did get out to some parks last summer which was fun — maybe that’ll be part of the year once it gets warmer!

  • Allison | My Novel Life January 19, 2018, 7:13 pm

    I love the idea of choosing one word to focus on throughout all areas of your life. Explore is an awesome choice. Lots of new possibilities. I feel like I might be too scatter-brained to choose just one word.

    • Kim January 23, 2018, 5:55 pm

      It can be hard to settle on one, but a lot of words can have a lot of meanings and so it’s easy to spin them out into different areas of your life.

  • Tina January 20, 2018, 7:26 am

    Great word and it can take you in new territory. I look forward to your posts this year about exploring your feelings, the world around you, books and food!

    • Kim January 23, 2018, 5:56 pm

      I didn’t even think of food! There are so many possibilities.

  • Kailana January 20, 2018, 10:08 am

    That sounds great! My sister tried painting about 2 years ago and she is obsessed. lol It ebbs and flows, but she has been painting ever since and even sells her paintings. I had to tell her to stop gifting me them, though. I was running out of space. lol I hope that 2018 has a lot of great experiences ahead for you.

    • Kim January 23, 2018, 5:56 pm

      Funny! I did the same thing when I learned to crochet. My family got scarves for a few years in a row!

  • Bron January 21, 2018, 5:35 am

    I love this – explore is a fantastic word to live by in 2018.

  • Michelle January 21, 2018, 10:11 am

    This is a fantastic word, and I love how you explained the process of finding it. Some people agonize about it, but I do think it is one of those things where the word finds you instead of you finding your word.

    Good luck, and I hope you share how you incorporate your word into all aspects of your life this year!

    • Kim January 23, 2018, 5:57 pm

      I totally agree — when you spend some time pondering, a word comes. And it doesn’t have to be perfect or everything, just a place to start and return to throughout the year.

  • Care January 22, 2018, 12:04 pm

    Explore is such a positive forward-thinking be-curious word. Hoping it leads you to exciting discoveries. My word is RESET. It reminds me to stop and realize how far I’ve come and that I’m focused on a fresh start.

    • Kim January 23, 2018, 5:58 pm

      I love that word too! I think we all can use reminders to reset when things get a little stressed… just calm down and get centered and breathe.

  • iliana January 22, 2018, 4:03 pm

    This post is just so inspiring! I think you chose the perfect word and it sounds like you will have a lot of wonderful encounters ahead of you this year.

    • Kim January 23, 2018, 5:58 pm

      I hope so! I’m excited about it.

  • Jenny @ Reading the End January 22, 2018, 6:09 pm

    That’s an awesome mindset for 2018! You’re so cool. I love these word-of-the-year things that people do, because (I’ve probably mentioned this before!) they always boil down to “more” or “less.” And I love both of those two things! When it’s a “more” year, it’s so cool to see people trying new things and expanding their horizons, and when it’s a “less” year, I sympathize SO MUCH with folks trying to pare down their lives to include only what genuinely gives them joy. Good luck with your exploring, my more-ish friend! <3

    • Kim January 23, 2018, 6:00 pm

      I never really thought of it that way, but you’re totally right! I’ve had a couple years of “more” words and a couple years of “less” words. I’m excited to see where a “more” year takes me.

  • Laurie C January 23, 2018, 4:35 pm

    “Explore” sounds like an excellent word to live by this year. I’m sorry you’ve been through so much all at once, and it’s great that you’re back!

    • Kim January 23, 2018, 6:01 pm

      I’m trying 🙂 At some point it’s time to start moving again. I hope 2018 is that year.

  • Christina February 2, 2018, 9:30 am

    Oh, I much prefer “explore” to “present”. Sounds like a bit more of a push to stretch your wings whereas “present”, to me, sounds more like existing. Best wishes for the year, Kim!

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