Word of the Year: My First Surprise of 2020


As an alternative to New Year’s resolutions, a few of my friends chose a word of the year: one word that describes a guiding principle for navigating the next twelve months. Words like LIGHT or ACTION or ELEVATE. I love watching how these big-picture words manifest themselves in peoples’ day-to-day lives.

And me? I like the idea of choosing a word of the year. But how does someone commit to a single word? Who could possibly predict the theme that would feel relevant for twelve whole months? Life is too big to be tethered to one tiny little word! I can do what I want! YOU CAN’T TELL ME WHAT TO DO.

Hold up. That’s my petulant toddler voice, and it only shows up when I’m avoiding something. But…choosing a word of the year? It’s one little word. What’s the big deal?

Choosing a word of the year is scary

The big deal is this: I’m scared. Much as I love the idea of finding my verbal North Star, I’m afraid I’ll get distracted. I’m afraid I lack the discipline to follow it through the year. I’m afraid I’ll quit.

Remember to look up. Photo by Caleb Woods

Making my way through the dark

2019 was hard. The baseline of 2019 was the churning political whirlpool; the constant, sucking vortex I’ve been swimming against since November 2016. But there were also big changes in my family’s life, many of which were positive and exciting. Joyful, even. But change, even good change, is disruptive. I know this, but in 2019 I felt it, in the gut.

Even with much to celebrate, I ended the year stumbling in the dark. I’ll devote future conversations to how I crawled back into the light. But, for now, I’ll just say thank God for good therapists and great friends.

All channels open

So now it’s 2020. I read a bunch of my friends’ New Year updates and it’s inspiring to hear what they’re planning for the year ahead. I have plans too, but they’re fuzzy. I know which direction I’m going, but I’m not clear on the destination. That’s okay. I’m an intuitive decision-maker. What others might call lack of clarity I call data collection.

To my surprise, a word kept bubbling up. I ignored it for a while, but it kept bobbing to the surface. And my inner toddler didn’t seem to mind.

My 2020 Word of the Year

The word is VISION.

Okay, okay, maybe all those “20/20 vision” puns floating around on Twitter got in my head. Pun-lovers, raise your hands!

But no other word more accurately gets at what I want for 2020. What I want more than anything.

I see a future full of possibility. It looks like a spacious life as the parent of adults. A different way of working. A looser grip on my habits and hang-ups. A new definition of “impact.”

On a bigger scale, it looks like a country pulled back from the brink. Renewed awareness of the things we share. Progress toward a healthier future for our children and planet.

Who remembers Apple’s 1984 Super Bowl commercial?

We’re living in dark times (no duh) with the constant drone of those in power telling us we’re weak and alone, or that we hate each other.

It’s the reality show from hell. But, like any reality show, it’s not reality. It’s a distorted and relentlessly-repeated media campaign designed to maintain the status quo.

No thanks. That show sucks.

I’m interested in the story of what we’re building, not who we’re fighting.

It’s a pretty big vision. Bigger than one year or one person. But not bigger than one word.

Let’s see.


My friend/podcast BFF Christine chose EMBRACE. My friend Karen chose BOLD. Does choosing a word of the year appeal to you? It’s not too late. You can choose a word whenever you want AND it doesn’t have to be for an entire year. Word of the Quarter! Word of the Week! You’re the boss of you.

Leave a comment with your Word of the Year! I’d love to hear what you choose.

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  • YAY!!! I am, as always, inspired and in awe of you. You’ve already given me a lot to think about here…will circle back with my word! ❤️

  • Your awesome post is part of a building drumbeat, Asha! VISION is a very fitting word. My word is HEART. ❤️

  • Well, if that’s not perfect! We’re in this one together. We have been all along.

  • I feel that every time I read what you write. Every time!

  • I need to give this more thought but after mulling it over today I’ve come up with the word ENOUGH. I have enough, I am enough, I’m doing enough. And given the current political environment – I’ve been patient enough and am not taking it anymore.

  • I’ve never chosen a word because it always seems so overwhelming, but much like you, this year a word just bubbled up—connect. Living through the current political climate is making me feel closed off and angry. This year I want to prioritize connection. With friends and family, with my body, with my spirituality, my community, with what I want from life as I approach 50 in a few years.

  • Hillary, this is lovely. We all need nourishment right now. My political work now takes the form of a monthly gathering of friends who talk, learn, support and take action together. We keep in touch between gatherings via group text. We’re as engaged as ever without feeling constantly overwhelmed, and we can tag team when one of us needs a break. It’s wonderful. We’re so excited about it we wrote up a guide: http://startademocracyclub.org

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