Declare Your Own Renaissance

Tulips in Amsterdam. Photo by Lily Latson

Each year, I declare the theme of a year. It is an idea I got years ago from a friend of mine who always did a remarkable job of declaring the motif that would permeate the following year. He probably spent way more time thinking about it than I ever gave him credit for. But his choices were always profound and inspiring. I used to anxiously wait to see what he would declare the year’s theme to be and jump on board with the enthusiasm of a child in a bouncy house. 

This eventually evolved into me declaring my own personal themes. I admit they were not nearly as aspirational, influential, nor even as realistic as some of his were. But they were my own personal anthems. Ones that fit me and applied to what I needed in that year. 

Now my friend’s annual theme always had a poetic ring to it, such as “The Year of New Beginnings” or “The Year to be Courageous”. Mine, well, mine were more, shall we say… blunt. One year, it was “The Year of Yes!” and it was followed by “The Year of No.” If I had been more eloquent, I would probably have called it “The Year of the Pause.” However, at that time I needed to know I had the empowerment to say no… to EVERYTHING. And as you can imagine, after a year of saying YES to all things that came my way, I NEEDED a year to say NO to almost everything and reestablish some boundaries.

St. Francis covered in vines. Photo by: Lily Latson

Last year, I tried something a little different. I used just 1 word to describe something I wanted my life to have more of in 2020. Oh, optimistic, naïve, wonderful, little me. In January of 2020, having no idea what was coming at me like a jet plane with rocket boosters and no brakes, I chose the word “Patience.” I might have just snorted from laughing so hard just thinking about how I painstakingly picked that word. Thinking at the time that I just wanted more patience with my kids. That it would make me a better mom and be less cranky about things. Never in my life did I think the ENTIRE WORLD would try my patience, at every turn, like 2020 did. Ironically, while my patience for much of the rest of the world and a LOT of people in it is pretty much gone, my patience with my family is actually better than ever (most days).

So this brings me to this year’s theme. I decided to be a little more thoughtful this year. I scrapped the whole “one word” thing. ‘Cause let’s face it, anything that I started “new” in 2020 is going in the dumpster. I am usually only superstitious about sports, but 2020 is going into that category these days. I also took more time to really think about the themes I saw emerging over the end of 2020 and my hopes for 2021. I focused on what I need this year, and after that words can’t even describe year, I need some positivity. So without further ado, I present you with my theme of 2021:

“My Year of Renaissance”

Now bear with me. It might seem a little lofty or even straight up, “huh?” But let’s examine why this is a perfect theme for 2021. In January, I took an online Art History class with a focus on Renaissance Artwork and it got me thinking. The Renaissance period immediately followed the Dark Ages (and the Black Plague!) and was a period of great rebirth, creativity, and scientific discovery. It was about understanding and appreciating the beauty around us. Pushing and developing ourselves and our comprehension of the world we live in. There was definitely conflict in that evolution as opposing ideas waged against each other. But in that time, some of the biggest scientific advances emerged and some of the most amazing art was born.

Roses and Towers. Photo by Lily Latson

I have noticed that in the coping skills we all developed last year, many people turned toward their creative sides. I saw friends and family embrace new artistic endeavors, physical creation of items, and furthering an education in a new skill or subject. We all slowed down just a touch and returned to a more basic humanity in a sense as we dealt with the trauma that was slamming us in the face each day.

And like the Renaissance that emerged over a couple hundred years, I decided I want to grab onto that creative hum and hold on to it with all my might. I plan to use the next year to begin my own personal Renaissance. To focus my energy on creating beautiful things (that may only be beautiful to me, and that is okay.) To acknowledge the beauty in the world around me everyday in a more focused way. And to devote some of my time to further enlightening myself on the subjects that I have always wanted to learn, but never carved out the time for. I am using this year to carefully craft my own creative rebirth.

I know all this sounds very large concept and almost like a giant ball of kids slime that oozes over when you try to get your arms around it. And in some ways, it kind of is. But I have defined a few areas that I am working on to make this goal achievable. Here is how I have started my commitment to My Year of Renaissance:

  • Self-Enlightenment Through Online Classes: I enrolled in an online Art History class. I have always wanted to learn more about paintings in particular and expand my own personal knowledge past the VERY basic information given to me in my elementary school art classes. I enrolled through EdX, which is free for the majority of classes and it has been a wonderful experience.  Each lecture is 10ish minutes and I can take them as I have time in the week. I thoroughly enjoyed it and look forward to picking my next class/subject soon.
Fountain of Fish & Dragons. Photo by Lily Latson
  • Appreciation of Natural Beauty Through Bird Watching: Not gonna’ lie, I had a kind of nerdy image in my head of bird watchers. My judgment definitely skewed my opinion of this amazing past time/hobby. And I am a big nerd, so maybe I just didn’t have enough self-reflection to recognize I was destined for this activity before. Either way, I have started appreciating the birds around me. Taking the time to stop, look, and enjoy them. They are such amazing creatures and it is a lot more fun when you actually know what they are! The COLORS of the birds that just fly through my yard is awe-inspiring. The yellows, golds, rich browns, vibrant blues, and scarlet reds now stop me in my tracks. I have been using the Merlin app from the Cornell Lab, which is awesome at helping identify birds. They will also help you easily track what you see and also give you information about the birds. Extra bonus, is the data you do log helps Cornell Lab’s research and aviary conservation. Plus, it gives me fun things to talk with my kids about when we go for walks and hikes. They also love it because it is a good excuse to carry around the binoculars they got from their Aunt, Uncle, and Cousin for Christmas.
Photo by Boris Smokrovic on Unsplash
  • Creative Outflow Through Artistic Expression & Creation: This one has perhaps been the most rewarding for me in the near term. At the end of 2020, I pulled out my old cross-stitch work that my Grandmother had taught me when I was young. It was calming to have something to sit quietly with and keep my hands busy. I also liked the connection it gave me to my Grandmother. There is something rewarding about engaging in an art form that feels more traditional, old fashioned, and in a way, dying. (Though from what I have recently been reading, I am not the only one embracing embroidery as it is seeing a resurgence.)  I have continued with new projects, some more rewarding than others, and am learning new stiches and new skills. It has given me a creative outlet I didn’t know I needed. Next, I would like to learn how to sketch/draw beyond my 3rdgrade skill level. I might try to marry my next online class with this one and enroll in a drawing class (and hey, I might even try sketching the birds I see!) Also, I continue to push my need to create in my garden and in my kitchen as I hone skills and experiment with new projects.
Photo by Santoshi Guruju on Unsplash

2020 was a hard year. And I don’t know anyone who misses it or wishes we could do it again. And real talk, 2021 hasn’t exactly started out much easier for many of us. But out of the dark ages, bloomed The Renaissance. While I know I can never be a Leonardo or Michelangelo, I am embracing my own personal Renaissance. And I hope you choose to join me.

What would you chose for your theme of the year? What are ways you can embrace your own personal Renaissance? Leave me a comment and let me know!