A quick shout-out to those who filled out my Tell me about yourself survey—I appreciate you taking the time out of your busy day to help me out—and a request of those who haven’t yet done so: 100% anonymous, strictly market research, no commitment, and it’s up for another week.

For the past few years, I’ve heard a lot of buzz at New Year’s around identifying a “word for the year”—sometimes in place of and sometimes in addition to making resolutions and/or setting goals.

I’m a word person: my first career was in foreign language instruction, I love word games and puns, I read voraciously (good stuff and trash—I’m an equal opportunity reader), and I write.

I write a lot. In addition to my cookbook and all the grants and reports I’ve written the last nine years, I also write a monthly column for We Love Ann Arbor and I blog weekly. An average of 1,500 words per post x 52 weeks = 78,000 words per year, or just about a 250-page book a year.


This year, I decided to identify a word for the year ahead: when I look back in December, what one word would I most like to describe what 2019 was about?

I’m a word person, this should be easy, right?

Mmm. Not so much.

Of course, I had a list of about 10 words, which seemed problematic until I came across this exercise in a workbook called Wellpreneur Planner, in which the author, Amanda Cook, recommends coming up with a list and letting it simmer for a while.

I got down to three … but then I got stuck on the one that feels most important: is it freedom? or is it independence?

I have already reached my decision (because after all, it’s my word), but I was fascinated by the input from friends, family, colleagues, and mentors when I asked them about how those words differ in their minds. (Talk about bio-individuality!)

Before I share my final list, I’d love your input: (How) do the words “freedom” and “independence” differ? Do they feel different to you, or is it a matter of etymology or convention?

Let me know your take on independence vs. freedom in the comments and/or what your word for 2019 is.


  1. Sarah Haywood

    Hi, Liza! I think the word “independence” implies detachment from others, while freedom can include both collaboration/cooperation with others as well as being on our own. In other words, we can be free anywhere, all the time. Just my two cents! =) My word for 2019 is “exploration.” Thanks for your thoughtful and insightful blog posts!!

    1. Elizabeth Baker

      Yet another brilliant insight that nobody else has raised yet—thank YOU for your insightful comments!

  2. Marni

    Hi Liza, to me, “freedom” implies from the outside or from others and feels passive. “Independence” implies something more internal or toward something and feels active and intentional. I’m sort of laughing because my word for 2018 was “freedom” and it seemed to active at the time. Comparing it now to “independence” it is feeling more passive and less powerful. What a fun exercise!

    1. Elizabeth Baker

      Mmm. So interesting—you’ve hit on a few of my feelings about the two words (specifically what is a movement/energy toward/away for each of them), but I hadn’t considered whether they were internal/external in that way. If ever there was proof of bioindividuality in language, I may have hit on it? I’m getting some interesting emails about this, too, and nobody is approaching it from the same angle! Fascinating.

  3. Suzie Nalbandian

    I feel like there needs to be a preposition – like “freedom to…” and “independence from…” but I suppose they those are interchangeable as well… Then, there is a distinction that freedom is associated with a right and independence is a privilege. Just adding more questions instead of help, I’m afraid!

    1. Elizabeth Baker

      See?!? It’s such a rabbit hole, isn’t it? N had a similar response, that freedom is a right, which independence is more of a privilege.

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