Three words for 2018

Good evening” I nodded as I passed a well wrapped up couple walking their dog on the shorefront.

Evening,” they responded, kindly faces pinched in the chill wind.

I glanced at my watch a few steps onwards, and realised it was only a few minutes after 3 o’clock. In northern Scotland the days are short and in those twilight days between Christmas and New Year the sun nudges above the hills just for a short while before resting again below the horizon. It would soon be dark, another cosy night ahead.

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Such evenings are perfect to reflect back on the year. Long evenings to review what the year brought, as well as preparing for the New Year. This time last year, I was in Ecuador. To be precise, I had been in the Galapagos Islands on those very twixtmas days, absorbing the unique setting I was in and oblivious to the surprises which 2017 was to bring. I was crafting my 2017 words: “Emerge, explore and intend”. I was ready for what the year would bring.

Or so I thought.

My process of identifying my 3 words combines a foundation of “givens” for the year with the direction, strength and tools to absorb “unexpecteds”. The words were tested to their limit by the past year as the “givens” almost all disappeared.

As I stepped into 2017, I had been living in Africa just a few months and was settling in to this new and inspiring place. A whole new continent and world away from the Asia I had lived and worked in for the previous decade and a half. My 3 word mantra was in place to guide me move forward. Emerge, explore and intend. I was all set to build my confidence and establish my place in my new environment. I was eager to explore my new surroundings. And I set out to approach life intentionally. However, 2017 had a few surprises to put in my path. Serious ill health from early in the year, a long recovery time and a change in the world of work saw me return to Scotland in the middle of the year, ill prepared for the adjustment which repatriation and professional redirection requires. It is not yet timely to detail those changes as there is still work to do to find my feet in a world which has changed significantly since I left in 2000. Writing an article for CABLE, Scotland’s new online international affairs magazine about my return to Scotland, provided a useful opportunity for me to think more deeply on the scale and depth of this readjustment.

Ullapool 2

This is a transition at all levels, professional, personal and physical. And a transition which was not planned or chosen, but necessitated by a set of external factors beyond my control. To move forward, I need 3 words which are strong and which will guide me to keep moving forward, ensuring I do not flag.

This is the first time in my life when I have not been working (or studying full time). I have been taken aback to realise that I feel stripped of my sense of purpose without the role which work provided. I am still the same person, with the same beliefs and values yet the vehicle to challenge inequity and inspire change was very much bound up in my professional role. This has led me to my first word – search. I need to search to find my place, to find a way to play my part in the world. I want to define and refine my sense of purpose. Searching is also a very practical need. I need to search to find where I can play a role in the Scottish workforce, in a country which has changed so much in the time I was away. I must search for a long term place to call “home”, as my circumstances now are very different. These are important individually, and almost overwhelming when put together. And there is no shortcut, searching and researching are processes in themselves and need time, energy and careful consideration.

And that leads me to my second word. After such change and turbulence, I yearn to “settle”. I have revelled in the variety of places I have lived, without doubt. I had no idea that I would spend so many years overseas and in so many different countries when I left Scotland 17 years ago. Yet, no matter how much I felt “at home” and enjoyed the homes I settled in, I always knew that no matter how long I would stay in a country, it would not be permanent and that leaves a psychological niggle deep down. After so many years of different, long term yet temporary homes, I am warmed by the prospect of a home where I can finally unpack all the elements of my life and truly settle. Indeed, I have experienced uncertainty and upheaval in all areas of my life these past months and I want to focus on seeing that all settle in 2018. These are also not quick or simple processes, but I would like to see at least clarity and stability. I want the dust to settle, and to see the way ahead in my longer term future.

My final word is one which leans on and follows on from the previous two. The various threads of my life are currently loose and straggled. These need to be sorted and brought to some kind of order. I want to begin to “weave” my new life from these various dimensions. Threads are thin, fragile and quick to be blown away when they are single, but when they are brought together, with ideas and direction, they can be woven into a fabric of meaning, strength and beauty. These strands woven together can form stability, clarity and can grow and evolve as time moves forward. Having so many loose strands may be daunting, but this is also liberating. I have enormous freedom to weave the life and future which is right for me. I am eager to for that to take shape and to see what the picture will look like.

Inverness 1

As we move through January, these northern days will slowly lengthen alongside the promise of spring and regrowth as nature’s cycles move forward. I have my first Scottish spring in almost 2 decades to look forward to. I welcome a reacquaintance with snowdrops, crocuses and daffodils, as the trees begin to bud and the evenings become lighter.

This is the nurturing backdrop for my 2018 mantra “Search, settle and weave”

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10 thoughts on “Three words for 2018

  1. Philippa, I love your words for 2018. You have been going through so many changes, some of which is daunting, I imagine. You will settle, I’m sure, and you will adjust, as you are strong. I’m hoping 2018 is an amazing year for you.

    • Thank you so much, Beth. Yes, there have been so many deep changes, and the process of selecting the words in itself helps me to focus on the upcoming priorities and “tone” I want to set for the future.

      I hope all is well with you?

  2. Philippa – such inspiring reflections – all of us have our private upheavals which seem so overwhelming until someone else’s word or experience bring perspective. Thank you 🙏

  3. 2017 was so unexpectedly difficult for many of us, wasn’t it? I too had a big unexpected health crisis, that really put a lot of things in perspective for me. I love your words, and I hope they help guide you to achieve some stability in 2018. And, as always, I love your photos. That first one, of the gloaming, is just gorgeous. xoxo

    • Absolutely, KK – I remember following your own challenges, and know how much it impacts. I was totally laid up and facing a very different way forward. Thank you for your comment – I love the words too! They comfort and guide me as well as reminding me to be proactive! That photo of the gloaming is also one of my favourites – thank you! It was taken on my last day in Ullapool, looking west towards the opening of Loch Broom and the open sea beyond. A wonderful place to pause, but would be a longer pause in the summer gloaming 😉 xoxox

  4. Happy New Year dearest Philippa. I love your word choices and I love that you have kept this habit up over the year with these beautiful words to guide you. May you find everything you seek and your heart’s truest desires in the year to come xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

    • Thank you so much, Marie and a very very happy New Year to you too! I was hesitant about the words this year, because they were so challenged in 2017, but incredibly they did provide some stability and a reminder even though things changed so unexpectedly. I wish you every happiness, and a healthy and inspiring year ahead. Much love xxx

  5. Pingback: Weekly Round-Up: The New Year Edition | Journeying Beyond Breast Cancer

  6. I love it didi. The tapestry you weave will be glorious indeed.
    Sorry for the quiet at this end. Its been madness. I’ll be in touch again soon xxxxx

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