I like to have fun with New Year’s resolutions. I stay away from the “this is the year I get my life together” goals and instead try to choose small resolutions that I can actually accomplish. A few years ago, I resolved to go on more dates, which as it turns out, was a goal I abandoned with ease. The next year I decided that I would find the perfect red lipstick. This goal I quickly accomplished; Hurricane Red is still my signature look.
Sometimes my intentions are a bit more meaningful, like the year I decided to send handwritten letters to community leaders who were doing hard and important justice work in their contexts. At the start of 2020, I wrote this in my journal: more of what matters, less of what doesn’t. Between the pandemic and losing my dad, I would say I learned more than I intended about this.
My resolution from 2016 stands out as my most transformative intention to date. At that point, I had been living in St Louis for a couple of years, but I was still yearning for authentic and deep community. Several of my friends had moved away and I was feeling lonely and disconnected from my neighborhood. I knew that as an introvert who is prone to shyness, the community I wanted would not magically appear. I would have to build it with intention and openness. So, at the start of 2016, I penned this: accept every invitation possible.
Later that week, I walked to The Mud House to get some work done over a cup of coffee. A very pregnant acquaintance paused at my table to say hello and then mentioned that we should get coffee sometime. How about now, I asked? And that’s how I learned she was nervous about having a baby in a city so far from her family and support network. I stopped by her house the next month, soon after her baby boy was born. I rocked the little one while she took a break.
I was walking from home to my coworking space that spring when I stopped to admire the best poppies I had ever seen. A very small woman popped her head up from behind the hedge she was trimming and motioned me to come over to her – an invitation into her garden. She showed me everything she was growing, and I told her about my newfound love of gardening. Years later, we still share seeds, cuttings, and advice.
Perhaps the most surprising invitation I received was when a friend approached me with an odd idea—you should run for committeewoman, he said, referring to a position in our local government that focuses on voter engagement and education. My friend cited the commitment I had to our neighborhood and the connections I’d worked hard to make since moving there. This felt like an absurd fit for my demeaner, if you remember the whole introvert thing, but I told him I’d consider it. That evening I called my mom to tell her about this funny conversation. Without skipping a beat, she says to me: well, this sounds like an invitation!
Ultimately, I decided to run for office and that summer won my race against a 23-year incumbent. In the months of campaigning before the election, I found the community I had been looking for at the beginning of the year. I met neighbors from all walks of life and connected over a shared love of place. It was opening myself up to others that made me truly at home in my neighborhood. I am so grateful that I accepted the invitation!
As we approach another new year, I am thinking about what type of resolution I’d like to make. Do I keep it lighthearted or choose something a bit more thoughtful? I’ve had a hard but good year; I started a new job, simplified my life by downsizing significantly, and spent a good amount of time on the shores of Lake Superior. I think my resolution is to keep the space I’ve built into my life. It’s this margin that makes me a present and connected neighbor, and that is something I want to maintain with intention in the coming year.
What neighborhood-focused resolutions are you considering for the new year?