My first year of participating in the practice of having a word for the year (simplicity), naturally flowed into embrace for 2011. When selecting the word, I knew that like typical years, I could anticipate a range of experiences and wanted to embrace everything that came my way – the fun, the easy, and the challenging alike, moving forward with confidence and optimism. I was anticipating different experiences that would pull me out of my comfort zone, and I wanted to remind myself to approach them by embracing the unknown. Among the challenges, I would continue to work on my doctoral degree and was especially nervous about statistics after not taking any math classes since high school. I also wanted to embrace exercise to focus on my health. I signed up for a 12K along with my sister. Like math, I had not participated in any official runs since high school cross country 8 1/2 years prior, and even at that, those were just 5Ks. This year ended up being the year that I exercised more than any other year in my adult life before or after (so far). I also started to explore digital scrapbooking.
During this year, I continued to experiment with juggling different priorities – family, career, school, and exercise. I thought about how self-care was vital – that along with exercise, I needed to be able to put down a good book in order to get proper rest. I recognized that after a demanding, condensed summer session for my doctoral classes, I needed to prioritize slowing down and enjoying the time with my girls before summer vacation slipped by.
I also took a leap by requesting a leave of absence from my K-12 position at a dual language charter school in order to fill in as a sabbatical replacement in teacher education for the year – a choice that was hard to make for many different reasons but ultimately became a critical piece to my career/family journey, as well as eventually leading to a pathway to be able to attend daily Mass – a critical aspect of my spiritual growth.
Embrace was all about mindset and attitude – about trying to enjoy and see value in all of life’s experiences, rather than simply enjoying the easy and fun, while complaining about or dreading the difficulty and emotionally draining. Having a mindset of embracing helped me to power through my dissertation the year after – even when my hard drive crashed right after I had completed a significant milestone. It still helps me to have endurance during longer writing projects, intimidating reports, or situations in which I am vulnerable. It has helped me to approach subsequent labor experiences with greater appreciation for the process, even though I am always oh so relieved when it is all over and my baby is in my arms. Embracing has also helped me to be willing to take risks and be vulnerable.
I can see how embrace resonates in life prior to this, as well as after, shaping my convictions about the value of the process and space for growth inherent in life’s experiences. Last fall when I was able to participate in a personal vocation seminar through Franciscan University, I was able to see with more clarity how this thread is woven throughout my life and speaks to my heart’s desire to see the beauty of becoming who God created me to be and to support others on their journeys.
When I selected embrace as my word for the year, I was drawn to the value of the mindset without necessarily making a spiritual connection to it. With time, I can now see how God was strengthening a foundation to eventually make explicit connections to God’s providence and the bigger picture of my life journey.
Copyright 2021 Amanda Villagómez // Photo by Ben White on Unsplash