The Year of the Work is a year-long epistolary project created and facilitated by Kayley Vandenberg.
Kayley came to this project with a history of personal style blogging and four years of ups and downs in her personal life. After a divorce, a move from Grand Rapids, MI to Los Angeles, CA, and a slew of new experiences, she re-evaluated her priorities and her contributions. During this process she came to the realization that she possesses a deep need to inspire others through writing.
“the year of letting go, of understanding loss. grace. Of the word ‘no’ and also being able to say ‘you are not kind’. The year of humanity/humility. When the whole world couldn’t get out of bed. Everyone I’ve met this year, says the same thing ‘you are so easy to be around, how do you do that?’. The year I broke open and dug out all the rot with my own hands. I year I learnt small talk. And how to smile at strangers. The year I understood that I am at my best when I reach out and ask ‘do you want to be my friend?’. The year of sugar, everywhere. Softness. Sweetness. Honey honey. The year of being alone, and learning how much I like it. The year of hugging people I don’t know, because I want to know them. The year I made peace and love, right here.” - Warsan Shire
In these words by one of her favorite poets, Warsan Shire, Kayley felt the first tingles of inspiration. An intentional year. A year that yearned for something close to Warsan’s description. A year of working towards more self knowledge and love. The Year of the Work.
Kayley imagined a community of similarly minded women (and maybe a few men) connected by their love of language, their desire for purpose, and their striving for “Softness. Sweetness. Honey honey.” Somehow, though, updating a blog or sending out an email didn’t feel meaningful enough. It took a chance letter from a friend to complete the vision: an intentional year recorded not just on a glowing screen but on something more tangible. A letter.
Each month, Kayley would compose a letter exploring themes she was confronting in her own life. She’d share experiences and memories and feelings and lessons learned. Each letter would be woven with honesty and positivity. Each would have the specific intent of encouraging a life of meaning and purpose for the reader. Twelve letters to trace a year. A kind of epistolary memoir. The Year of the Work.
On New Years Day, Kayley shared the idea on her blog (thatsyourgold.com) and Instagram (@kayleyvandenberg). Immediately she knew she wasn’t alone. The mailing list grew and so did the need for more community engagement. A members-only Facebook group, a monthly Periscope, a hashtag, occasional meet-ups, the dream of retreats, and, of course, letters.
The Year of the Work is a living, breathing organism made of words and paper, vulnerability and trust, friendship and support. For more information regarding the community, please click here.
As 2017 approached, Kayley came to find that this new way of living was something she wanted to embrace for longer than a year and that a year of intentional growth has the potential to turn into a lifetime. Considering the work of self-improvement is never ending, she decided The Year of the Work should also continue. The 2017 installment still totes the title "The Year of the Work", as she committed to another year, and includes some changes to make the project more sustainable. Beginning in 2017, additional rewards for donors were introduced, as well as limited sponsored letters and re-registration for non-donors. To read more about this please visit the sponsor page!