Published first on the Progress News, January 3, 2022

What is your passion? What is that thing that excites you more than anything else, that can make you forget everything and lose yourself in the sheer joy of being you, doing what you love most? As we forge ahead into 2022, it’s important to remind ourselves of what really matters to us, so that it is our passion driving us forward. And I’m not talking about New Year’s Resolutions. If they work for you, awesome. But, for most of us, they don’t do a whole lot of good because we’re not really passionate about them. Sure, we’d like to lose that stubborn ten pounds, or volunteer more, or take more time for ourselves, but are we passionate about it? Generally, no. 

But a passion…that can truly change your life, or the lives of people around you. What’s even better is when you find multiple passions that overlap each other. If you discover a passion for hiking, you’ll probably find that those last few pounds disappear without much effort. If you discover a passion for volunteering along hiking trails, you’ll probably find that you’re staying fit while being part of something bigger than yourself. And if you discover a passion for quiet moments of reflection in the woods after a solid hiking-trail-maintenance mission, you’ll probably find that you are in the best physical, emotional, and mental health of your life! Add in a solid group of friends or loved ones who bring out your best possible self, and you’ve hit the New-Year-New-Me jackpot.  

When I was on a family vacation recently, I realized that I am over-the-top passionate about redevelopment and community resilience. Everywhere we went, my brain immediately began scanning for resources and challenges and trying to figure out what was or wasn’t working for a town or a region and how those lessons could be used here at home. I’ve been so fortunate to overlap that with passions for rousing conversation and meeting new people and learning new skills, and I find I can easily and happily lose myself in my work. And through the joy that comes with truly loving what I do, I have become more and more passionate about finding ways to provide that sort of opportunity to everyone else, whatever might happen to float their individual boat.  

So, as we move forward into the New Year, I intend to give all of myself to building our regional Innovation Ecosystem. We have an amazing Rural Redevelopment Hub in the ORA, and an amazing group of equally dedicated partners across our region, and we are all working together, driven by our shared passions for the best possible quality of life for us, our families, our neighbors, and those we haven’t even met yet. We are creating the future right here and now, and I feel so honored to be a part of it. If I can sneak in a hike from time to time, even better!!  Whatever your passion, make the most of it, share it, and let it drive you forward. Happy New Year!