Merriam-Webster released their word of the year for 2021 and I’m not sure how to feel about it. If you haven’t heard, the word is ‘vaccine’, a search that has increased by more than 600% over the past 12-months. The prominence of the word is difficult to think about because we have been through so much – some of us much more than others.
So, I began to wonder...is ‘Vaccine’ as the word of the year a beacon of hope or political pandering? And what can this simple search data tell us about who and where we are in life right now?
The word itself elicits a multitude of emotions and, depending on your beliefs, might even be incredibly triggering. If you live in America, vaccines themselves have been used as a divisive political selling point and a tool for fear-mongering. So Merriam-Webster effectively struck a nerve, or we did, based on our collective Google searching. And whether you’re for or against what the word represents – this annual vocabulary tradition highlights how much our lives have changed over the course of the year.
You Won’t Believe This
A little bit of research put me onto something I want to share with you. In the top searches of 2021, right up there with ‘vaccine’ was the word ‘perseverance’.
Perseverance is a critical element of Resilience. And of course you all know that I believe that Resilience is one of the most important qualities in our lives. So that search data tells me that collectively, we are more on the same page than maybe we’ve ever been.
And to me, that is the most inspiring, heart-filling reality, coexisting. In the face of uprooting change and loss, humans are asking, “How can we get through this and use it to become stronger?”
I might even posit that Resilience and its subset, perseverance, IS a vaccine in and of itself that we all could use right now, regardless of your personal values or political views.
I Have To Be Honest
The reason behind the uptick in the ‘perseverance’ search had a lot to do with the Mars rover, sharing the same name, but that rover did successfully land on Mars on February 18th and got its name from a 7th-grader who entered the naming contest with 28,000 other students. Perseverance – a beacon of hope – a way forward.
This bit of information doesn’t change how I feel about the uptick in searches – and here’s why: Perseverance, the rover, traveled 300 million miles, a remarkable journey no matter which way you look at it. The rover met adversity on its months-long journey and we wanted to be witness to how, no matter what, Perseverance persisted. Humans tuned in from around the world, according to Merriam-Webster’s data, hoping to be inspired and in awe of a journey that met completion. A journey perhaps we all needed more than we knew.
So there you have it, we are a global community of resilience – we want to live it – we want to have it – we even want to watch it unfold through incredible journeys and stories on this planet and even the next. Which confirms for me that resilience and perseverance is the one vaccine we all truly need – no matter who we are, how we fall politically or what our personal values are.
Back to ‘Vaccine’
The word itself brings conversations of personal choice, political affiliation, healthcare equality or inequality, fear, safety, potential for the future – the meaning is so loaded depending on who you are, it’s no wonder the search jumped by hundreds of percents. So before I wrap this up, I want you to think about this: in the year 2020, the most searched terms were ‘pandemic’ and ‘malarkey’ which tells me we’ve made tremendous progress. And even if the light at the end of the tunnel is directly related to our current use of vocabulary and Google searches, to me this represents leaps in the right direction.
Resilience, perseverance, even vaccines if they represent hope for you, are words we clearly cannot live without.