When 2016 started with the death of David Bowie, many of us were in shock. By the time Prince died in April, lots more celebrities had died and we were becoming aware of an awful trend that had many of us wishing that 2016 would end soon. Awful things kept happening and that wish turned into a rally cry.
Aleppo, the election, Zika, the season premier of The Walking Dead (don’t hate, there are people who were MORE affected by what happened on a fictional zombie show than any real life massacre), the shit show that was the Olympics in Brazil, North Carolina’s legislation telling people where to poop, the Orlando night club, Brexit, wildfires in California, floods in Louisiana, Hurricane Matthew that killed over 1,000 people, the election, earthquakes, terrorist bombings, the election… did I mention the election??
And just as the year was finally crawling to an end and we were enjoying our holidays, comforted by the fact that 2016 would be over soon, Generation Xers were rocked yet again by the deaths of George Michael and Carrie Fisher. The memes kicked up again – “Someone kill 2016. When will it end?”
I have been a little sheepish about joining the pitchfork protest to firebomb 2016.
This has been my best year in such a long time!! I spent 6 weeks in California, studying under the best travel writer of our era, THE Don George. I helped build the world-famous Boudhanath Stupa in Nepal. I fell in love (having dated every man within 100 miles of Washington, DC, apparently the only place to meet someone interesting enough to qualify as my boyfriend is Fairbanks, Alaska). A CD with my poem on it, read by classic rock legend and DJ Jon Kirkman with music by composer, Rashid Lanie, was finally released to the public. After three years of barely making it as a freelance social media manager/content writer/travel writer and coming dangerously close to tapping out my savings, I got a full-time job as a copy writer AND I started learning how to fly on top of a better salary than I ever had as an event manager (and I was a GOOD event manager!)! I left that awful, character-building apartment, made all kinds of friends, started talking to my mother on an almost regular basis.
I can’t thumb my nose at all of the wonderful things that happened, no matter who died. It would be ungrateful of me.
Sure, I had bad stuff too. The crazy Airbnb lady who could just as easily have become the storyline for a Misery sequel, the crazy ‘boyfriend’ who went from bringing me flowers to insisting that I had given him an STD, which, for the record, would have been the immaculate transmission since he was the first person I slept with since my hysterectomy and the nuclear antibiotics that accompanied it. The work partnership and friendship that, by my own doing, burst into flames until there weren’t even ashes to recover.
My inner-critic/editor/cynic scoffs. ‘Oh, you just think it’s been a great year because of all the fantastic things that have happened. If none of that had happened, you’d be as ready as everybody else to stick a fork in 2016.’ Perhaps I wouldn’t be so giddy when I reminisce, but here’s the thing:
When the calendar flips to 2017, nothing is going to change.
I hate to be the ‘quintessential honest friend’ but, people are going to keep dying. Wars are going to keep happening. Big stuff is going to keep happening. My question is, how are you going to let that show up in your personal life?
We can CHOOSE whether 2016, or 2017, or any time in space that we occupy, is going to be shitty or not. We can let it chip away at us, tear us down, make us feel tired and helpless and worthless. But if we do that, are we being ungrateful for the wonderful things that we have received?
Did ANYTHING good happen to you this year?? Did you get a warm hug? A job? Did you laugh? Did you have food every day? A safe, warm place to sleep every night? Did someone in the world care about your existence? I bet there was a day when the sun felt great on your skin, or when you turned on the radio and a song you really love was playing. You got an email from someone you haven’t spoken to in a long time. Maybe you just had a great cup of coffee or something to eat that was so tasty you made yummy noises. Or you saw a movie that transported you away from reality for a little while. I’ll bet that everyone of us can reflect to a beautiful moment in 2016 if we wanted to.
I’m not making light of the awful things that happened this year. No way. Many people were moved to tears by tragedy in 2016. But should some of these tragedies define us, really? Aleppo. Yes. Trump. Yes. The Walking Dead? David Bowie? Ummm…
There will be tragedies in 2017 too. And 2018, and every year. I say that it is up to us to not let the darkness win. We can learn from what happened in 2016 and remember that life is precious and short, and that we should soak up every second of it like the gravy it is. Don’t wait for the right time to do and say the things that mean something to you. If you think of someone you miss or love CALL THEM! Send them flowers! If the person in front of you at the grocery store is obviously having a bad day, hand the cashier a $5 bill. That might be the nicest thing anyone has done for them in ages. If you’re driving down the road and you see a beautiful bird or a sunset, don’t just ignore it and keep driving – pull over and enjoy it. Be grateful, remember the joy.
Me? I’ll be damned if I’m going to let anyone or anything take MY sunshine away.