If you're following folks on social media at all, you know that by now there are lots of statements like, "Fuck off 2016," or "Good riddance, 2016" or "Worst. Year. Ever." Well, there is definitely some truth to that sentiment, but really, was 2016 all that terrible? Actually….yeah, it was. It was seriously crap-tastic.
But, I spent some time over the past few days trying to determine some really terrible personal experiences 2016 brought...and you know what? They all evetually resulted in GOOD experiences too...."From the bad comes the good"--so here goes. My list of shitty 2016 followed by the good 2016.
(NOTE: The bad experiences are really, really, really bad. The good results are just...good. They aren’t like as good as the bad. So just keep that in mind. I’m working hard to find a silver lining here).
1) The BAD: Donald Trump was elected President
Let's just dive in, shall we? Guys, this is the WORST. It's like....the worst. There is no way around it. He is the worst. His policies are the worst. His cabinet appointments are the worst. It's pretty much just awful. Really, really awful. If you're even thinking of saying, "Well, it might not be that bad," let's just consider his New Year's Eve tweet:
“Happy New Year to all, including to my many enemies and those who have fought me and lost so badly they just don't know what to do. Love!”
and compare that to our current president's:
“As we look ahead to the future, I wanted to take a moment to look back on the remarkable progress that you made possible these past 8 years.”
No. Honestly. America. Seriously. What the fuck is wrong with you?
1a) The GOOD: 3 million more people voted for Hillary, the Electoral College is under scrutiny (FINALLY), Pantsuit Nation and Yoga.
Ok--first--3 million more people voted for Hillary. Guys, that is HUGE. That is like..3 times the population of Grand Rapids DIDN’T want Donald Trump to be President. That’s a whole heck of a lot. And, it brought above the scrutiny of the archaic practice of the Electoral College (I mean, originally designed to support slave holders...um, it’s sort of time for it to go), and it brought about the badass Pantsuit Nation social media sensation….so that’s just bomb.
Now, personally: Yoga. This might seem rather silly, but as a result of my intense stress that the President election brought, I have become pretty much obsessed with yoga. I have been practicing yoga for years, but it's off and on again, and never really full dedication, but the day of the election results, I knew there was no where I needed to be more than my mat. I found a yoga studio close to my house in the past few months, and I have been a yoga-meister. I have attended 43 classes in the last 38 days, and I have started practicing at home as well. Today I began the 30 classes in 31 days challenge, and really, a huge aspect of this yoga practice, has been that I feel a sense of community in this studio. I love getting there for my class and having them know my name, greeting me with a smile, and letting me know that I am in the right place. It's fantastic. It's freeing. It's mind-clearing.
2) The BAD: Pat Conroy died.
Again, I know that for many of you, this likely wasn't earth shattering, but for me, it was. Pat Conroy was my hero for many years and when he died, fairly suddenly, in March, it was a huge blow. I thought we had at least a couple more years left together, but very shortly after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, he passed away at his home in South Carolina. I had just attended his 70th birthday party in South Carolina and had had the chance to reconnect with my devotion to him, but he was still gone and that was hard.
2a) The GOOD: I reconnected with my best friend, Chad.
Chad and I had been best friends for awhile--and then, we weren't. This is a long and convoluted explanation that I will not go into, but basically, we didn't speak for 3 years. But what had originally brought us together was Pat Conroy and our total obsession and dedication to the man. We were ADDICTED to Pat Conroy--I mean, to the point where we cooked our way through the Pat Conroy cookbook one year and traveled to Savannah, GA to see him speak. We LOVED him. And then we had a friendship break, and didn't speak. So, the morning that Pat died, I woke up to a CNN news alert, and then to an email from Chad, and then we started speaking again. And now we are friends. And it's beautiful.
3) The BAD: Betsy Devos has been named Education Secretary.
This is bad. It's really, really, really bad. It's about as bad as Donald Trump being elected, but it seems less bad because she is a sheep in wolf's clothing, where as Donald is a wolf in parasite's clothing, but really, Betsy is bad news bears for public educators such as myself. She believes in charter schools, privatization of education and the lack of unions for teachers. She WILL end public education in America. She has stated that improving private and charter schools is akin to "furthering God's Kingdom." She's bad news.
3a) The GOOD: I've been re-motivated to keep Watassa going.
Maybe that isn't 100% due to Betsy Devos, but definitely knowing that public education is under attack has made me step back and reconsider my next steps as a teacher and an educator. I believe in education and teaching wholeheartedly--I love education, and I love PUBLIC education. Education is a right, a civil and human right, and it is something that is undervalued and under-appreciated in our culture, but it is imperative. Knowing that education might change dramatically in the next few years is a significantly worrisome issue to me, but I also believe that I need to do what I can to protect myself and my beliefs. If that means focusing more on photography for the next few years while we ride this public education attack, then so be it.
4) The BAD: The Pulse Nightclub Shooting
This was bad. It was really, really, really bad. Maybe the worst of all of American events in 2016. 49 people were gunned down at a nightclub in Miami for doing what they wanted to do--loving those they were designed to love, dancing, celebrating, enjoying these freedoms of America. Perhaps what was so bad about this event was the total and utter senselessness of it. It was an ignorant and hateful person who chose to take his ignorance and hate into other people’s lives and just ruin dreams and ruin hope. It was awful.
4a) The GOOD: The Every Single Day Project
I started this the day after Pulse. I had recently experienced my own far too close brush with gun violence and when Pulse happened, it was a moment where I realized that bringing to light the intense obsession our country has with guns and gun violence was a tiny bit of work I could do through my own social media. Sure, I lost a lot of followers as a result and I definitely had people get in touch to tell me that I needed to “stick to weddings” and “stop talking politics”, but I didn’t. I kept talking and I kept writing and I kept researching, and you know what? I learned a lot, and I think others did to. One of the most important and humbling things I learned is that gun violence is simply part of our nation’s agenda. We are obsessed and it is an illness that no amount of legislation will ever change.
5) The BAD: More than 250 black people were shot by police officers in 2016
The word “bad” does not even come close to describing this fact, just like so many other facts on this list. 39 of those people were unarmed, most had no criminal records or intent, several were school workers, some were children, some are dead. America, this is a mark on your national identity and to say differently would be to bury your head in the sand.
5a) The GOOD: I’ve become more actively aware of BLM and other organizations that bring light to racial injustice
Again, compared to the BAD, this is nothing, but having a Black Lives Matter sign in my yard has at least opened the door to having conversations with family and neighbors about what this means to say that Black Lives Matter and to “stand for racial injustice”. The idea that such a sign or movement could threaten the identity of a person who is not marginalized is foreign to me, but at least it has provided the chance to ask, “Does this sign threaten your racial identity?” to the old man that walks by and mutters, “Polish Lives Matter” under his breath, clearly not interested in engaging, just in muttering.
There are many, many, many more events. I didn’t even touch on the war in Syria, the overthrow of the Affordable Healthcare Act, the myriad of celebrities we lost, perhaps family and friends who have experienced loss or health crisis, the death of a student to whom I was close, or the upcoming war on Planned Parenthood and women’s health--there’s been a lot in 2016. It’s been a doozy, that's for sure.
But something to think too, is that maybe 2016 was the year we needed. The year that just came with one punch after another after another to finally wake us up and get us moving.
I read this morning that 2017, as a 1 year in the numerology work, is a year of creation and new beginnings. So perhaps this will be a year of new beginnings and creation--change--and maybe 2016 and it’s terribleness is what kick in the butt we needed it to be.
Maybe 2017 will be a year where we finally sit up and stop just following the consumer culture of this country and instead start asking questions and having difficult conversations. A year where we start to push back and challenge the status quo. A year where we take our talents and use them for goodness and empowerment, and we disavow hate and disrespect. Perhaps this is the year where we speak our minds and we do so with intelligence and research based ideas. Where we let our wings spread and we say that we will no longer let our lives just pass us by without being the people who stand for justice and righteousness and kindness and love.
One thing that came from this year was also the result of that terrible Pulse shooting--the Lin Manuel Miranda sonnet the night of the Grammy’s where he reminded us:
My wife’s the reason anything gets done
She nudges me towards promise by degrees
She is a perfect symphony of one
Our son is her most beautiful reprise.
We chase the melodies that seem to find us
Until they’re finished songs and start to play
When senseless acts of tragedy remind us
That nothing here is promised, not one day.
This show is proof that history remembers
We lived through times when hate and fear seemed stronger;
We rise and fall and light from dying embers, remembrances that hope and love last longer
And love is love is love is love is love is love is love is love cannot be killed or swept aside.
I sing Vanessa’s symphony, Eliza tells her story
Now fill the world with music, love and pride.
Maybe this is the year we get things done. We move towards promise. We become a symphony of one. We look for melodies in our differences. We finish our songs and write new ones with strangers. We say no to senseless tragedies. We remember history and we refuse to let it repeat. We allow love to be stronger than hate. We refuse to let a day go by where we do not stand on the right side of history. We love. And love and love. And love. And love and then we love some more.
It's 2017, my loves. What will you do with it? Leave a comment if you desire. I love to hear from you.