New Year resolutions. Flickr user chrish_99, CC BY 2.0

Finding Purpose in the New Year With a One-Word Mantra

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New Year resolutions. Flickr user chrish_99, CC BY 2.0
New Year resolutions. Flickr user chrish_99, CC BY 2.0

For a few years now, I’ve assigned each new year one word. It’s not a resolution or a concrete goal. It’s a mantra. A tool to find focus, rather than a destination. In 2014, my word was opportunity and I tried a lot of new things I would have otherwise been inclined to decline. In 2015, it was roots and I learned what “roots” really meant to me.

In late 2015, I made the decision to quit my job of 10 years as a software engineer to invest more time in my kids and my aspiring career writing picture books. Less stress. Less juggling of schedules. More unknowns. So, I chose my word for 2016 to be adventure. For the first time in my adult life, I didn’t have a plan or a clear path.

It was exactly the adventure my soul needed.

I wrote silly stories, practiced art, read a ton more books, went on day trips with the kids, etc. It was wonderful.

But eventually, fall came around and I started searching for the word that would represent my next year. I was getting frustrated with my lack of success with the traditional publishing industry, plus I was starting to miss programming and my science blogging/writing. The sense of adventure and vacation was still definitively fun, but I felt a little lost too. When the election results came in, let’s just say it didn’t lift my spirits up either.

Bill Nye fights with science, and so can I. Image credit: Popular Science.
Bill Nye fights with science, and so can I. Image credit: Popular Science.

Then I found this picture of Bill Nye from a Popular Science photoshoot and it became my vision board for 2017. It reminded me of my purpose. Of my ambitions. Of why I write for adults and kids about science and education, and why I want to inspire the next generation of parents and kids alike to explore their worlds.

“There’s nothing I believe in more strongly than getting young people interested in science and engineering, for a better tomorrow, for all humankind.” – Bill Nye

I felt a resurgence of determination for changing the world.  It was time to fight back. Fight back with science and education. Find my sense of purpose again.

It took a while to pinpoint exactly the perfect word for 2017, but in the literal eleventh hour (at 11 pm on New Year’s Eve!), my husband suggested mastermind and I knew that was it. I’m ready to mastermind the heck out of 2017.

So what is my complex scheme for changing the world? Here’s what I have so far…

Support access to information: I started volunteering at my local library. Libraries are a safe place where people of all stripes can get free access to information, a community resource vital to the education of many. My contribution may be small, but I feel proud to help connect people and knowledge together.

Inspire education: I wish I could be a great teacher and change the lives of hundreds of children. Unfortunately, I don’t “people” very well. So I decided to take something I already do—have STEM adventures with my kids—and combine it my love of writing to deliver a new blog: Geekling’s Guide to the Galaxy. I will use it as a space to inspire parents to explore and travel with kids beyond theme parks. Travel with purpose.

Dare to tell the unsellable stories: I started writing picture books years ago with the intention of telling the biographies of under-represented scientists forgotten under a plethora of revered white men. But after being told that the stories I want to tell don’t sell, I misguidedly started shying away from them. For 2017, I promised myself to find my own voice again. Stay true to my purpose. I can continue to pursue traditional publishing with more trendy/classic stories, meanwhile taking the proactive approach for those ideas not “popular” enough to validate a large volume of prints. I can use the skills I have as a programmer, as an artist, and as a writer and launch my own picture book app company (clever name pending) to tell the stories that aren’t wildly profitable, but important nonetheless. Like that of Sophie Germain, Grace Hopper, or Margaret Hamilton, just to name a few. Even if my apps “don’t sell,” I’ll consider it a wild success if my stories finally reach the eyeballs of a few kids. The world needs these stories now more than ever. I am making it happen this year.

Pursue more opportunities to act as a science communicator: I recently saw an open call for a new science writer for SciShow Kids and my heart made a large jump. I very enthusiastically threw my hat in the ring. I’m assuming they’ll get a large number of applications and my chances are very small, but I’m okay with that. If nothing comes from it, it won’t be the last such application I make in 2017.

I may not be Neil deGrasse Tyson or Bill Nye, but I can mastermind a way to make an impact.

What’s your mantra for 2017?

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1 thought on “Finding Purpose in the New Year With a One-Word Mantra

  1. My mantra this year is “focus”. My endeavors have been a bit all over the map in the past year, and I plan to focus on fewer at once, and to complete some and them move on. Thanks for being such an inspiration, Ariane. You’re my hero.

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