Well, that sure was a year, wasn’t it? That was uh, wow. This is my third year doing a year-in-review post, and hm, well, 2016 happened. To clarify, this was widely claimed to be like, the worst year? I kind of doubt it was the worst year, but this year did feel longer and more difficult than a lot of prior years. On the bright side, at least it mostly kind of seemed like we were all going through hell together, right? Except… as terrible as this year was in terms of world news, politics, and entertainment, it actually was not a bad year for me on a personal level.
I commented in last year’s post that 2014 felt like I was being pulled along by a current, and that 2015 felt like I was actually able to steer in the right direction beyond just keeping myself afloat. To further that metaphor, 2016 (in retrospect) feels like bracing myself for a tidal wave. Bracing myself by keeping myself planted and gathering a protective shell of good things around me, while seeing the terrible things coming on the horizon. I normally keep these posts focused on me and my development, and not so much on repeating the year’s biggest headlines, but this year it’s really hard to disentangle those things.
I totally get why people are saying that 2016 was just a horrific year in a lot of ways. An absurdly high number of extremely beloved celebrities passed away, representing the death of the reasons why we loved them – their individuality, their bravery, their kindness. Many of these people were pioneers of a movement of self-acceptance, regardless of what anyone else might say or think, and many of them played formative roles in both our own development and the current pop culture as a whole. It’s always sad when people you admire pass away, and this year just felt like a constant barrage of it, over and over. I’m not typically superstitious, but I’m 100% here for the theory that David Bowie was holding the entire fabric of the universe together, and everything has just been unraveling since his death.
On a much scarier level, 2016 saw a massive resurgence and worse, normalization, of neo-nazi, white supremacist, and fascist political movements. Events like Brexit and the election of Donald Trump, at the time felt like the culmination of these movements to me. They’re not, of course; there’s a very real chance that they’re just the beginning. Things like these made me legitimately question my worldview. I’ve always been an idealist; I want to believe that most people are good at heart, are willing to be selfless and kind and charitable. There were days in 2016 where it was really, truly hard to believe that was the case. There have always been, and always will be, bad people. But lately it’s felt like people are much more willing to be openly awful because of the political climate of this year.
I think 2017 is going to be worse. I don’t know about celebrity deaths, but it seems like being the type of person who was super cool and did a lot of drugs in the 70s and 80s isn’t great for your lifespan. I think the world is going to get a lot more unstable before anything gets set to rights again. Every day could be something out of a history book, something we said we would never let happen again… and yet here we are, and it’s happening again, because history is just on a loop and maybe we never truly learn. Someone pointed out that it may not be coincidence that that loop of “fascism, oh wait, no” is set to about 80 years – the average human lifespan. As the last World War II veterans and Holocaust survivors pass away, the horrors of Western civilization’s last brush with fascism seem closer than ever.
And yet, I am not without hope. I think the events of 2016 have done more to mobilize a generation of political activists than anything else could have. I think the fight will be long and it will be hard, but I think it will be fought; I think fewer people than ever are willing to just roll over and let it pass (as much as Democratic leadership may be taking the “lie back and think of England” approach to a Trump presidency, I think few people will accept that). I think we’re going to see people coming together and helping each other in ways that we hadn’t seen before. I think we’re all going to have to step up and protect each other as best we can, but what’s more is that I think we really will do it.
Like I said, I did gather that protective shell of good things around myself this year. There’s a quote from Tamora Pierce that has always resonated with me, in Trickster’s Queen – “I wanted to have something good to remember about today. Something that wasn’t petty and mean. Sometimes you have to provide such moments yourself.” I took that philosophy to heart this year, and I think I’ll be doing so even more in the year to come. If you can do a small thing to make someone else’s day a little brighter, you should do that thing. In the midst of the fight, if you can do something kind for yourself, something that will remind you what the fight is for in the first place, you should do that thing.
I am pleased with the progress I made this year personally, with my relationship with myself and my relationships with others. I am, as ever, extraordinarily grateful for the amazing friends I have, and for my healthy and positive family life. I think this year would’ve been a lot harder without that. I’m satisfied with my progress as a writer – I think it’s getting easier to see the difference between my earlier writing and my work now, even on this blog. I didn’t necessarily accomplish the goals I set out to do at the beginning of this year, but that’s in large part because my priorities shifted, and I got plenty accomplished in other areas of my writing. I wrote less than last year but edited more and learned more and tried more new different things.
2016 was rough and 2017 has every chance of being worse. But there were a lot of good things that happened in 2016 and I don’t want to let those get buried in the seemingly endless mountain of bad things. Hopefully, 2017 will allow us to preserve and expand those good things. But I know that these things don’t just happen, and usually you have to go out and make them happen.