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From the Journal: A Note from Jo on Possibility

by Joanna Gaines
Published on February 14, 2024

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It could be the way the trees are starting to perk up, or maybe it’s the sun peeking through them—those few glimpses of warmer light are all I need to know that change is in the air. And this season, I’m ready to see what I can make of it.

If you’ve read my columns over the years, you know I’m a creature of habit. Change isn’t something I readily embrace. Even the good kind, the celebratory. Instead, I’m more likely to toe the edge for a bit or plan my way out of it. It’s always been second nature for me to bear the weight of the unknown, the not-yet-seen, rather than to trust the hope of what could be.

Yet, 2023 was a year of constant shifts for me, personally, and for our family. Some expected, others not so much. We celebrated milestone anniversaries and ushered in a new season for our company. We walked kids into new schools and watched one move to a new city. As 2023 ticked by, it seemed as though every month asked me to brace myself as new replaced old.

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Ironically, the year before had—finally—brought us to solid ground. As a family, we were feeling settled in. Four out of our five children were at the same school, and our work had found its groove after years of zigging and zagging this way then that. It was one of those years when our family rhythms felt consistent, predictable, dare I say safe. Yet, less than 12 months later, I witnessed a handful of life-size changes take place right before my eyes.

Even so, as I sit here now, what I remember most is the aftermath. The breaths and words and thoughts that followed every seismic shift. The choices that carried us from lost to found again. Because in a year that could have easily felt like a slow undoing, instead I experienced a new way of living where change gives way to clarity, and clarity gives way to choice. Where a shift in rhythm—whether good, painful, planned, or otherwise—in its wake leaves a void, a stretch of space where things are just out of sync enough that we can take hold of what happens next.

As I found out, that space is where possibility reigns. It’s where imagination takes flight, where dreams get their shot at getting off the ground. That space is what gives me agency to choose where we should go next, where the idea of what could be gets me to the other side with hope still in my eyes.

An illustration of Joanna Gaines sitting at a table in a flourishing spring garden.
ILLUSTRATION BY LIDA ZIRUFFO

Typically, I’m one to hightail it out of that kind of gray area. Especially when it comes to forks in the road that I wasn’t expecting. I’m usually the one still catching my breath when I should be looking around, asking myself, “OK, what next?”

In times past, I haven’t always had the courage or curiosity to open my mind to the path of possibility, not when I’m already locked in on the path of least resistance. I’ve wanted the safety of what was, the security of familiarity, back too much. So I made plans in the aftermath, sometimes falling into new rhythms or new commitments without enough thought. There was also a part of me that felt like imagining the possibilities was too much of a luxury. Reserved somehow only for the daydreamers, the out-of-the-box thinkers, the Chip Gaineses of the world.

So maybe it was the volume of shifts we were experiencing, but for all the changes that 2023 held, the largest among them was my own. When life swung, for the first time I didn’t hold my breath. I stood tall. I looked around. I worried less about what was changing now and instead looked forward to what it could give way to next. I asked myself, “What beautiful thing can come from this? What did I learn that I can carry forward?” And I came to realize that it’s the aftermath that’s the most formative. It was how we landed, how we let what was different be its own kind of beautiful. It was how we reset, changed course, and believed in the goodness to come.

Change can be scary, and it can break hearts. But it can also be exciting and full of surprise. If you’re anything like me, change of any kind will always still feel to you like growing pains. But now I know there’s also this thrilling kind of hope that comes with possibility. It’s my heart’s chance to fight back—to counter the insecurities that might otherwise keep me from learning and gaining clarity about where I’ve been in order to see what’s ahead a little brighter.

I’m sure you’ve got your own long list of bends in the road. If you can, think about the last time your life changed course. If you have kids, maybe it was the end of the school year or the shift from childhood to adolescence. It might be a commitment that ended, leaving you freer or maybe a little lost. But somehow, somewhere, something that was no longer is. A relationship, a job, a worry. Our days and months and years are full of them, and one thing we can know for sure is that well will never run dry. If change is a sign of life, then possibility is proof that we’ve still got some growing to do.

"If change is a sign of life, then possibility is proof that we’ve still got some growing to do."

I’m moving into this new season primed for change, but this time I won’t clench my fists or brace myself. I don’t need to fear the unknown of possibility. I don’t need to be afraid to dare to dream the unimaginable. After all, it’s the gift of imagination, of the unformed and out of reach, that lets us see beyond our current reality. Imagine if we all chose to chase the space we’re in right now. This new season? The fresh change in the air?

Imagine what might come of a willingness to embrace what could be in addition to all that already is. Imagine all the hope and truth and surprise that might follow a belief in possibility.


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