2016 was NOT ‘the Worst’

I know that with Trump’s election, a long list of beloved celebrity deaths, and with refugee crises and atrocities abroad weighing on our hearts, many of us are glad to see the end of 2016.

In many ways, I can’t blame you. 2016, like many years, wasn’t exactly a bucket of rainbows for me. Rainy weather ruined my plans for a skiing “stay-cation” this February. My creative writing has taken a major back seat. I saw a lot more of doctors’ offices and medical labs than I would have liked. Brexit happened. So did terrorist attacks. Trudeau lied about his commitment to the environment (approving the Kinder Morgan expansion with neither social license nor scientific support), and Trump lied and bullied his way into the U.S. presidency. Post-truth is now a thing. The gleeful rise of racism, bigotry, and violence echoes a horrifying past most of us don’t care to revisit. Climate change is altering our weather patterns right before our eyes and no one seems to care. The cherry on the top for me, personally, was when my department reorganized this fall and I lost a job that I was good at, and which I enjoyed and found both personally and professionally fulfilling.

For other people, 2016 was much, much, worse. People lost loved ones. People lost their homes, or their health. People have been hurt, violated, let down in the worst ways. People in conflict areas like Iraq, Syria, and Yemen have been unimaginably traumatized and of course they aren’t the only ones. Obviously, for many of the humans on this planet, 2016 was a terrible year.

But for many of us (and by “many of us” I mean the kind of privileged westerner whose complaints about 2016 might appear in my Twitter or Facebook feeds), 2016 was really not that bad. For one thing, every single year since humans have been keeping track has seen its share of bloodshed, loss, and horror. We have survived through dark times, and we will again. Secondly, 2016 also brought a lot of good.

My nephew was born this year(!!!). A graduate project I undertook this spring proved challenging in ways I didn’t expect but ultimately pushed me to confront parts of myself that were long-buried, and to create something powerful and affecting. My family and friends are, by and large, doing well. Being unemployed has allowed me to spend more time with my husband and to appreciate what an incredibly giving and hardworking person he is. I’ve had some beautiful personal triumphs and countless little joys—lazy mornings, sunny walks, good books, good food, good company (plus a downstairs neighbour who is a professional jazz pianist and unintentionally filling my home with good music as I type this). And I KNOW that a lot of people calling 2016 “the Worst” would have similar private blessings, if they really thought about it.

As for the world at large, Canada’s own Chris Hadfield (former commander of the International Space Station), took it upon himself this morning to tweet about some of the great things that have happened in 2016:

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[Obviously I have not verified each item of Hadfield’s list but I’m sure if you Google any one of these achievements you’ll find some information about them. I screen-captured a few of my favourites but if you want to see the full list you can check out Chris Hadfield’s Twitter feed at twitter.com/Cmdr_Hadfield].

I’m tired of hearing about how “people suck” or how “2016 was the worst” or about how “human beings are the worst”. 2016 was NOT a flaming trash heap and neither are the people on this planet. There is bad, and there is good. There are families grieving a death right now and there are families welcoming a new baby. There are racists and misogynists and neo-Nazis and terrorists, but there are also strong and proud minority communities, activists and allies, resisters, water protectors, and White Helmets. There are inconsiderate assholes almost everywhere you look but there are also volunteers in hospital auxiliaries and non-profits and shelters and old folks’ homes and libraries and community centres. There is ignorance but there is also education. There are people inventing weapons and the next piece of consumer garbage, destined for the landfill, but there are also people discovering cures for diseases and looking for new ways to help our planet. There is death and change but also life and growth, destruction but also creation.

2016 is just a year in the calendar, just one trip around the sun. We can’t change what has happened in it, but we can change our attitudes, and I for one prefer to greet 2017 with hope, and maybe a little humility.

P.S. Be the change.

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New Year’s Resolultions Now, Then and Totally Irrelevant

Every year I make New Year’s resolutions, and almost every year I break them. Likely because mine are always so broad and vague that I don’t have a concrete way to keep track of whether I’m sticking to them or not. Apparently it’s easier to keep resolutions when they are clearly defined goals, and more easy to accomplish. This is also supposed to be better for my self-esteem, or something, because apparently not meeting goals makes us feel bad.

Eff that. I don’t see any point in making resolutions that are easy. The easy ones won’t be of  use to me. So here are my resolutions for the year 2012:

  1. Try not to be so grumpy so often. This is a resolution I’ve made a few times, because I know I have a bad habit of letting little things (like being late) get me down, and then letting my swearing and banging around of household utensils rain down on any innocent bystander who is unlucky enough to be in my path. Great stress relief for me, uncool for the people around me.
  2. Drink more water. Eugh. I never drink water. And then I get headaches. The simple solution is obviously to drink water BEFORE I get a headache but I hate drinking water because water is BORING. This may just be something I’ll have to put up with.
  3. Make my friends a priority.  When I get busy I live at the mercy of whatever I wrote on my calendar, and sometimes that means going weeks without seeing my closest and dearest friends, the ones who are always here for me when everything else I’m doing ends, winds down, or disappears. And that sucks, because I love my friends, and generally speaking they’re more fun than the obligations on my calendar.
  4. Finish what I start. Lately I’ve been feeling a little smug that some of my 2011 plans actually came to fruition, like my European Adventure and the fact that I’ve kept up with this blog. In reality, I am a procrastinator, a lazy-bones, and a scaredy-cat, and most of my plans and ideas barely make it past their inception. Which is a shame because whether they be writing, art, or home improvement projects, some of my ideas are actually good ones and I’d probably enjoy seeing them through.
  5. Be nicer.  This is a big vague goal and probably goes along with not being as grumpy, but when my TC and I were talking about resolutions this is one of the ones I came up with almost immediately. I think I am a nice person, but I also think that part of being a nice person is not resting on your laurels. To really be a nice person means making a continuous effort to have empathy, to maybe not share that retort that’s on the tip of your tongue, to donate what time/money/resources you can spare to make someone else’s life better, and basically to try to comport yourself in a way that does as little harm as possible to the people around you and your planet. And it’s not easy! When I have a shitty day there’s a part of me that wants to make it the world’s problem, that justifies my snappy remarks and occasional lack of charity, patience, or understanding. Which isn’t nice. And that part of me will always be there, making life interesting, but I am determined to soldier on nonetheless.

Because I am currently back at my parents’ house with my boxes of old diaries and journals at hand, I thought it might be fun to see if I’d written down any resolutions in junior high. And I did. On December 31, 1998, at the age of 12, I made the following resolutions:

  1. train more for skiing
  2. work harder in school + extracurricular
  3. get all the social life stuff worked out
  4. stop being such a grump
  5. try new things and try my best
  6. be healthier + nicer

I’m actually quite surprised at how many of my resolutions were the same as they are now, though I did make a couple resolutions that are no longer relevant. With regards to getting my “social life stuff worked out” I think I was referring to a friend at school who had found a new group of friends that I didn’t get along with and I was having some problems with the new pecking order in the class. I also had a mad crazy crush on a cute little Grade 7 boy who in turn had a crush on the new best friend of my old friend. Sigh. Grade 7 was complicated.

To my credit, since being 12 I have been doing better at trying new things and at being healthy. Success!

Since I found some resolutions in my Grade 7 diary I assumed I would also find some written around the new year in Grade 6. Alas, James Cameron’s seafaring masterpiece got in the way of making New Year’s resolutions. In the interests of reflection and exposition, I am posting my first entry of the year 1998, written when I was 11 years old:

Jan. 8, 1998

Dear Diary,

I watched Titanic this holiday and, omigod! I’m going crazy for Leonardo DiCaprio again. Only this time it’s worse. Almost everything reminds me that he died at the end of the movie. Somehow, it’s way worse than Romeo + Juliet. At the end, the girl he was in love with is 100 or something, and she dies and goes back to the Titanic and she’s young and with him again. It’s so sad. Someday, I want to get Leo’s address and write him a letter. That would be neat.

Lauren

And then, inexplicably, I stuck a sticker from a glycerin soap bought at the SoapBerry Shop into the diary at the end of the post. Three months later I devoted an entire page of my diary to little pictures of “Leo” that I cut out of magazines but if writing Leonardo DiCaprio a fan letter was my resolution for the year 1998, I never did do it.

Huh. I wonder if “finishing what I start” means I ought to write a letter to him now….

I’ll think about it. In the meantime, I wish you all a very happy New Year, and I hope the year 2012 brings great things and good changes to your lives. Get excited! I know I am. I mean, omigod!

Omigod what a dreamboat.