There’s a whole thing about picking a word for each new year. It’s supposed to set the tone, inspire you and generally steer things in your direction.
I chose words off and on. One year I chose “fearless” but the year was such a foggy blur I don’t really know if I was fearless or not. Last year I chose a word and then changed it mid-year to “prolific” to reflect what I wanted to accomplish with my writing. I’ve chosen other words other years but they haven’t stuck or made as much of an impact, so I’ve forgotten them.
This year I wrote out several words until one stuck: “impression.” It has a lot of meanings, ranging from the imprint left by a stronger object by force to the feelings you evoke from others.
It also reminded me of impressionism, a form of painting that uses heavy dots, streaks and blobs to create an image that, far away, is incredibly cohesive, complete with a dewy, romantic texture. Think Claude Monet. But up close it’s just fragments, dots and streaks and blobs.
Sometimes when I look at my life I stare at it so long I start to just see dots and streaks and blobs. I can’t see my progress. I feel the same on the inside but everything has changed around me. This is partially from training my dog, Smidge. She struggled with aggression, and still has her moments, but me learning what beliefs to impress upon her over the past year and half has led her to behaving better than she ever has. My cat misses me more each time I go on a weekend trip, affirming my return home with his undivided attention. I began to think about the care and love I have poured into them. What have I impressed on to them?
Meanwhile, my friends, especially on social media, don’t see blobs of paint constructing a woman. My colleagues see a more cohesive image of myself than I do. As I begin to understand the impression is not just a metaphorical brush dabbing at the canvas that makes up my creation more clearly, I can see a better image of myself. It is soft and dewy, full of texture and layers of colors, an image both real and abstract, dissipating into dots, streaks and blobs of paint.
Human life, like impressionist paintings, is complicated, a mess of color and texture and carries an element of mystery in a simple image of flowers or a pond. Impressionists cannot be duplicated, only imitated, as the skill lies in their mannerisms, the steadiness of their hands, the way their knuckles bend around the brush, and how they stand as they deliver a perfect touch on the canvas. It’s part skill, part soul.
Just like people. Just like me. I have made many impressions in my life and so many I am surprised by. What I thought was icy and apathetic has come off to others and introspective and flexible. Or how I never knew offering to help people with simple tasks would label me as a kind person. Or how it makes my friends feel when I am able to prioritize time with them, despite my work schedule.
I have always known I carry myself a little differently, I look a little different and I send out vibes I don’t quite understand, but I never knew how powerful those things could be. It’s become apparent to me that the impression I am making on the universe, even when I’m just running to the store or driving with the windows down, is making much heavier of an imprint than I expected.
2020 is a new decade and it is a time to look at my impressions… especially the impression I leave on myself.