Well, having found my word, maybe I do know what I want – rootedness and stability while reaching up and out.

Me at the start of 2022

It’s that time of year again when we all start to look back at the last year and ask the terrifying questions: How did I grow? Am I a better or worse person? Even worse, did I just stagnate? Have my hobbies developed or changed? Am I where I want to be in my chosen career or vocation? Did I complete that challenge I set for myself? Ahhhh… so many questions!

While I won’t be answering those questions in this post, I’m going to add another (but, in my opinion, better) two questions and share my answer. Did I live by my Word of 2022? How will my Word of 2023 affect the way I live for the next 12 months?

Tree: rooting in and growing out

I didn’t share my Word of the Year (WotY) last year. It felt immensely personal and had wrapped up in it every single big change that was happening or had happened in my life: engagement, moving counties (hopefully for the last time), wedding planning, marriage, new church, new people, new community. I was deeply looking for some stability and continuity – somewhere that I could put down the roots I had pulled up again so that they could be left to dig deep. And I’m not kidding when I said pulled up; this was my sixth move since going to university in 2010, fifth place I had moved to, and my eighth church. I seriously needed to lay down some roots and force myself to stay in one place, particularly one church, for more than two years.

On the flip side of that, I was also aware of how much growth and change was coming my way. This wasn’t just another move. I was going to be marrying Mr. FC and this had a whole load of change attached to it, from moving house again (at least in the same city 🙌) to changing my name. I was also in the biggest church I’d been in since my Master’s in 2017 but this time with an intention to serve. And then let us add UK Moot to the mix – an online community of Christians connected to or interested in the arts that I had helped set up and facilitated across multiple different platforms. Oh, and I wanted to continue to challenge and grow in my chosen craft (writing), run a half marathon and throw a party to mark turning 30, look for opportunities to promote in my paid work, and make a few friends in my new city.

Is it any wonder I chose a word like ‘tree’ to cover quite so much? I needed roots and growth… so ‘tree’ it was. But did my year match up to my word?

And you know what, I think 2022 did turn out to be a pretty tree-rrific year. I took to my new city, Oxford, with more ease than either I or Mr. FC expected; settled into my new small group with such ease that they came to my 30th birthday party despite it being 1.5hrs drive away; planned a wedding and got married; finished counseling (for now. Never say never), and confronted my fear of heights head-on twice. Yes, my writing on here took a drastic hit (and I apologise on the part of past-me moaning about brides who stopped blogging. It’s hard work to blog and plan a wedding) but I turned my hand to poetry thanks to UK Moot along with planning two Pass the Pieces, organising three zoom calls, running the Instagram account, and beginning the planning stage of a podcast. Oh, and I attended Hutchmoot UK! And ran the Oxford Half Marathon sub 2 hours 45 (including a loo break)! I feel more rooted than I ever thought possible after a year of Oxford life AND I feel like I’ve grown as a writer, facilitator, woman, and general human being. If we’re honest, I’ve only mentioned a tiny bit of everything I did, thought, and felt in 2022. It was a full-on year.

Lessons on rooting in and growing out

So what did I learn from the year of tree? Firstly, being rooted isn’t just about you and your commitment to a place and a people. It is also about the place and the people. And it is about your attitude. In my whole 30 years of life experience (only nine of which really count), Oxford has been the easiest place for me to settle and I honestly think that is because of the place and the people. Arriving in Oxford in a stable relationship with someone who already had a network of good friends made meeting people and making friends so much easier. Yes, I put in the effort to make my own connections but having someone to introduce you to good people makes it a million times easier. And get involved with a church! I can’t thank my small group enough for how welcome they made me feel. Lesson 1a – find good people who will make room for you.

As for place, man, it matters more than anyone really knows. I’m very much a place-person (I’m ridiculously attached to my hometown and area despite having moved away 19 years ago!) so this matters to me a lot. Realising that I felt at home here was a million small things: the feeling of peace while walking along the River Isis; being able to cycle or walk to most places in town; feeling the thrill of new cuisines and restaurants on my doorstep in comparison to a small town; being able to go from city to countryside in 15 minutes or less… it took me all of two months to feel at home here, and probably less than that. Lesson 1b – if you are struggling to feel rooted, spend some time getting to know your place. Visit independent coffee shops, go for long walks with a camera and no headphones/earpods, and stop traveling by car everywhere. Physically be in the place that you live.

Secondly, growing out. The key here for me has been to challenge myself. There are two kinds of challenge: the self-chosen/imposed and the externally imposed. I took on a fair few of the self-chosen variety and some of the self-imposed (i.e. I did not think through planning a big 30th party and planning a wedding in the same year) and they helped me to push myself in ways I hadn’t before. I grew professionally as a facilitator and organiser through UK Moot, developed my writing by turning my hand to other genres, and proved I do have the determination to run a half marathon. I’ve been challenged to confess to myself my struggles with stress, emotions, and boundaries in order to do something about them. Out of all of these, I’ve grown.

But I think what has been more instrumental in my growth is actually the externally imposed challenges. Having my vertigo intensified and flung back in my face while skiing was an experience BUT I never had to be helped off a mountain (though some bum-shuffling may have happened twice). This then set me up well for our honeymoon where my vertigo tried to do the same again while walking the levadas but Mr FC and I were ready for it this time: every descent and ascent was at my speed and we took so many celebratory photos! In doing so, I proved to myself that fear and anxiety* don’t control my life but that I am the one in the driving seat. I’m grateful that they are there to keep me safe (very useful in certain situations) but I don’t need to listen to them all the time. Lesson 2 – to quote an Instagram reel, “Don’t fight the fear. Just do it scared.” Challenges are there to grow you and change you – don’t go in blind but still go for it. You might just really like the “you” on the other side.

Balance: resourcing my life

Not even a writer but a person who writes – those who take their craft seriously need to find the right balance between serious work effort and having fun with their craft.

Me at the start of 2022

When I looked at 2022’s reflection for New Year, I was amazed at how much balance seemed to jump out as a theme. Even though I had chosen the word before I looked back at 2021 vs 2022, it struck me that maybe I had subconsciously known something that I only consciously grasped recently. I need balance in my life and, apparently, I have been needing it for a while.

The even funnier thing was that, in doing his annual reflections, Mr. FC also noticed a need for better balance. That wasn’t his overriding theme (which I won’t talk about here) but was something that confirmed for me that I was on the right track for 2023’s WotY.

Why ‘balance’? Because, frankly, my life is out of balance. Last year the majority of my time was given over to three things: planning a wedding, my full-time paid job, and figuring out life in Oxford. I wrote three posts and one of those was a reprint from my previous blog! I had to sacrifice various UK Moot things over summer and autumn. To top it all off, I suspect that if I looked at the time I spent with Mr. FC pre-August that more was spent on wedding admin than our relationship and, since the wedding, house jobs and life admin got given a pretty sizeable chunk of attention. Oh, the joys of being 30-somethings with a house we’re responsible for! This all means I am not prioritising time for the things that I tell myself I prioritise.

Sure, there is part of me that would like to do as one reel I saw says:

I don’t want to people anymore. I want Gandalf to show up to my house with 13 dwarves and invite me to go on an adventure.

However, that still wouldn’t look like the balance I’m after. That would be pure escapist adventure and if I’m honest that’s not what I’m looking for.

Rather, I’m after a life where I can prioritise my relationship with God, family (immediate and extended), and friends. One where my writing vocation can be put ahead of what other people think should be my career and where rest becomes as big a deal as work (in all its forms).

Learning to balance: my priorities for 2023

So, what are my priorities for this year? What is it that December 2023 (or even April 2023**) Katy will say thanks for balancing these two or three things?

I’ve been doing some outside-thinking about these. You know, the kind of thinking that only happens when you get fresh air, you’re not necessarily going anywhere or have an agenda, and sometimes the sun might even be out. Here’s my rough list, in something like an order:

  1. My relationship with God, within my church-community, my marriage, and as a woman.
  2. My vocation, i.e. writing and running Finding Chaya, facilitating UK Moot, and other related projects.
  3. My relationship with my husband and our families.
  4. My friendships, both the current ones I treasure and the newer ones I’m cultivating.

Sure, it’s only four things but those four each have a lot of subcategories under them. Like Mr. FC’s and my desire to increase our hospitality and build our house into something that is there for our friends and community, rather than a hobbit hole with a “No Admittance” sign. And alongside these I still need to do my paid job, clean the house, meal plan and food shop, exercise, socialise, and rest. Oh, and the 20+ books on my TBR, all the music I want to listen to, the shows to watch… You see, before you know it, you lose sight of your priorities and it’s all become busyness mushed together.

Hence, balance. To hold each of these things in its proper place, not allowing the scales to tip so that I give more of myself than I have available to any one thing.

One caveat: the balance of things will not look the same all year because, shockingly, things change over 12 months. Right now, I’m focusing on reigniting my writing and looking for a new paid job. I’m also dealing with a recurring injury that needs physiotherapy. My priorities are on my chosen work, my paid work, and my health. Come March, when we are going on holiday hopefully, Mr. FC will have my full attention and we can focus on fully resting together.

That doesn’t mean I’ll ignore my friends or Mr. FC this month – it simply means that January’s balance equals a heavier weighting towards vocation, work, and health. What I am looking out for is if other things on my scales or bad-rest (crashing out because you’re drained) begin to take a heavier weighting. That’s the point where I stop and reassess what’s going on.

Balancing in 2023

The joy in balance, I’m hoping, will be that I find myself with more margin to rest in and more energy to give to what’s important. It’s going to require me to have boundaries and hold them firm. But if there is no challenge, where will be the development that December 2023 Katy is glad I did?

Have I bitten off more than I can chew? Almost definitely yes! Will I keep growing or accidentally uproot myself? I’m aiming for growing my branches!

I’ll almost definitely leave 2023 with a few smashed plates and a few I put down only to forget about them. However, if I exit 2023 still feeling rested and steadfast I’ll have balanced my way through 2023.

Over to you

What’s your Word of the Year? Let me know in the comments.

If you haven’t picked one, try this generator.