In One Word…

“Describe your 2017 in one word.”

As 2017 rolled to an end, I saw a post on Facebook asking that very thing. The answers were predictably upbeat and encouraging for the most part. Of course, that is part of the problem with Facebook–people posting about their vacation, and the great meal they cooked or the fun date they went on, but not much about the fight with their kids and the challenge of paying bills. So, Rule #1 with Facebook asking you to describe your 2017 in one word is: don’t fall for it.

But I fell for it. I wondered what my word would be. No deaths in my immediate family so that was a win. On the plus side, we had one child graduate high school and start college. Another child made straight A’s while playing football. On the minus side, there was my continued personal challenge to lose weight and we needed to buy a new car. Then again, we started with a nice vacation! And so my assessment of 2017 went. I looked at it from all angles. A record year for the business! On the one hand I was disappointed, on the other hand I was pretty pleased and overall it was….normal. I loved, I laughed, I cried, I worried. It was a normal year.

I am guessing yours was, well, normal, also. That is the nature of life and the danger of comparisons. We too easily look at what others have, and envy rises in us. We look at those less fortunate, and don’t take the time to fully appreciate what we have. Facebook is not the real world. All those smiling faces are part of the real world–just as the sad stories of loss and challenge that we don’t see on social media are part of the real world. The real world is where life happens in all its splendor and squalor. I have always been amazed at the fascination with reality television, as people watch the unscripted but heavily-edited, made-for-mass consumption packages while missing the fascination in their own lives.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not saying challenges don’t happen or that reality doesn’t suck sometimes. But that is what being normal is all about, and why using “one word” to describe 2017 is such a trap. You are too complex. Life has too many layers. It is not possible for most of us to describe a year in one word, and to attempt to do so trivializes the day-to-day frustrations and achievements that make up our existence. Okay, if you cure cancer and win the Nobel Prize while celebrating your 40th wedding anniversary, etc., etc., that might rate an Excellent. Then again, those things would probably not qualify as “normal.” And still, you would be overlooking the negative things that happened.

One of the best things you can to do help make 2018 a good year is to cultivate gratitude. I am confident that, at the end of each day, you can tally up your pluses and minuses, and find things to be thankful for. By the way, in doing this you are rewiring your brain to enable positivity and optimism. At first, this might be difficult. For me, most of my days are…you guessed it… normal. But I have learned to appreciate an on-time flight and no traffic on my way home. I appreciate the health care we have as we make almost-weekly visits to the orthopedist during football season.

There are plenty of things I want to make happen in 2018. You probably feel the same. But we must remember to live along the way–to enjoy the big (and small) when we can, and to face the bad when we must. I hope 2018 is normal for me. Maybe even normal plus. I hope yours is too.

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Tamika C. Carter, PHR
Associate Director, Construction HR
The Associated General Contractors of America