Making My Peace With The Year 2016

Who hasn’t been affected by the craziness of this year?  As I struggle to make sense of one thing, I am bombarded with just another bit of turbulent reality that just seems to pile up.  It was a restless 2015 that actually started the whole thing in motion, I set multiple goals for the year of 2016.  I worked towards those goals, that I knew wouldn’t be resolved in a year, but had to make steps towards them anyway.  My year was doomed from the beginning, creating a long laundry list of things to do was already going to be a stretch, but add on top all of 2016’s surprises; deaths, politics, anger, heartbreak, mistrust, sadness, failure, hardships, the list can really go on.  Bear with me in this post, it may seem like a lot of randomness, but it will all make sense in the end.

Step one in creating resolutions is usually to set one attainable goal, in a measurable calculation.  Having made many of those in my life, and I know they usually went out the window by the time March hit.  So I made more “large picture” resolutions.  In life, some parents set goals for their kids, and as I was raised to have lots of measurable and sometimes unrealistic goals by my parents.  I found it easy to just hope that my daughter ends up happy in her life.  At the end of 2015, I found myself dealing with my own personal happiness and wanted to model a happier life for little Evie.  2016 was the year that was going to be different, this was the year that I was going to take on new risks and stretch myself and my capacities.  With all of that, came a lot of vulnerability and tested my sense of self.  From starting this blog, to tracing some roots, to understanding my role in some of my closest relationships… it is all some of the hardest things I’ve ever pushed myself to do, and do alone.

2016 was not just about me though.  Really, I don’t have enough words to write about the loss felt this year from some important figures in the world.  We’ve all seen the headlines and heard the reports, and it all seems a bit overwhelming sometimes.  There’s been so many, there’s a Wiki page for it.  How can you forget celebrities that have played some role in giving you something so memorable that it’s suck with you through most of your life?  I have burned into memory some of Alan Rickman’s lines as the Sheriff of Nottingham.  Gene Wilder’s cooky Willy Wonka lit my imagination on fire as a kid.  As a Star Wars fan (with a daughter even more of a fan), how can I not feel the loss of Carrie Fisher.  I am not a Hollywood-following person by any means.  It could be something I’ve attached a personal memory to, and not have anything to do with these celebrity as a person at all, maybe I just liked the movie.  I can’t help but respect them more as I learn more about the legacies they have left in their body of work, their philanthropy, or just their effect on others just by being themselves.

More than the huge loss of Hollywood lives in 2016, was the incredible deaths of the music industry.  Music that has very personal and specific ties to me.  Music that has given me life in my childhood dances, comforted my tears in solitude, my soundtrack to my rebellion and my awkward moments of trying to make sense of my place in the world.  To these incredible artists who were able to connect with me on such an intimate level; who helped me maneuver through and make sense of life when I didn’t have the words anymore, who can reach you on a primal and rhythmic level.  I haven’t felt so depressed over musicians dying since Michael Jackson, and the fact that it was one person after the next was a little too overwhelming this year.  Phife Dawg, Bowie, Maurice White, Sharon Jones, George Michael, Prince, and so many more.  It’s incredible how many times I’ve been helped through life by them, and I know I’m not the only one who feels the loss this year was so impactful because of the musicians who have made such a mark.

As the world darkened a bit by all these losses, I had  hoped to be still encouraged and inspired by others in the world.  Reading comic books with my daughter has re-affirmed the though of needing Super Heroes sometimes, and this was the year we needed it.  2016 was a flurry of social information; when more videos that showed unarmed, black men getting shot and killed in the streets, when proof comes out about corporate goons have their hand in basically controlling everyone’s life, when mass shootings start feeling normalized, when rapists are released with a slap on the wrist, when big money means more than clean water, when liberties are tested and justice is questioned… we needed a Super Hero.  Now I’m really not trying to get super political on this post, but Bernie Sanders rallied so many people to take a stand on a lot of the current issues that plague us, and 2016 screwed him.  He may have been one of favorite lost-heroes of the year, but he wasn’t alone.  We had heroes like the boxer Muhammad Ali, who’s been so inspiring in the fighting not only a physical fight but a mental, political, personal fight, who can be a flawed human but also a legend.  So many influencers and notable superstars (in so many aspects) made it seem like Super Heroes really did walk among us; John Glenn could help us dream big as he orbited the earth, Ray Tomlinson could create connections through emails, Donald Henderson basically irradiated the smallpox virus, even Robert Hulseman indirectly became a party hero with the invention of the red solo cup.  This was the year to remind me that we need to find and support these incredible heroes who do the best for a greater good, we can’t just miss them when they are gone.

Reeling from all the loss, and still trying to make headway in my own goals for the year, I was knocked to the ground with the recent election.  I am just not even going to start on it, it’s too much to write and honestly still processing it all.  The fact that we have Donald Trump as the president of the United States, with all of his swampy, questionable cabinet and even more questionable “American” following, I am left speechless.  In my opinion, this is probably the worst travesty that has happened in 2016.  As the weeks passed, I am still trying to come to terms on how to make sense of it, how do I teach some important values when the opposite is being celebrated and endorsed, how can I sit idly by when my world can be majorly changed as he takes office.

Yet, in feeling the heartbreak and betrayal of this election, I see what’s going on around the world and I know I just do not have it so bad.  2016 brought us the Zika virus in South America, extrajudicial killings of the Philippines, Brexit in the UK, the destruction of Aleppo and the heartbreaking stories of the people who once lived there… the civil unrest, the loss of lives, the military coups, the nuclear threats… I feel like it’s definitely the start of the end.  How could I not?  We as a society can’t even agree on something as steady as climate change, or see all the political agendas behind so many atrocities.  We are failing at humanity, and we ALL are playing a role in it, no matter how removed I am from the front lines of the issue, I am somewhat accountable.  I watch world news footage of kids who are crying for a lost parent or the parent who is crying over a lost child, and I can’t help but think about if it were me and what I am doing to help.  The world in 2016 is sad and scary, and honestly there is little hope that 2017 will bring on better situations.

Even in this current opportunity of seeing the year’s affects on a worldly level, the year has given me some personal blows.  I started the year off saying goodbye to someone very close to me, my friend left Oakland, I know it was crazy to think the relationship will ever really be the same.  This was also the year that I get news that some of my closest friends are also leaving in 2017, and as much as I know we will always be friends the distance will be challenging.  Loosing friends, especially those so close to you, is rough on me because I don’t feel like I really get close to most people.  As if this wasn’t enough of a loss, I then lost another friend shockingly and unexpectedly.

The Oakland Ghost Ship Fire took some of our best and brightest in not just the Oakland/Bay Area community, but in an even closer creative community.  The party was basically like many parties I have been to, and it was clear that it really could have been me.  The fire was fast, and thinking about automatically makes me feel like sobbing for all those who were lost.  The fact that I had a friend, Johnny Igaz, who was initially missing and then identified among the dead on site, is still so unreal to me.  I’ve made it so close to the end of this traumatic year, and the universe decides to hit me with this immeasurable loss.  Johnny was not my best or even one of my closest friends, but the importance that he had in his character to me and everyone else he met was what will make this so hard.  As I come to terms with the emotional rollercoaster of this year, I know how he chose to live and die.  I know the trials that made him human, the courage that he needed to face them, the special connections he made to get through life with others, and the necessity of exposing your own real emotion (what most of us, including myself, have the hardest time giving freely) to be able to open yourself up for challenges and honesty.  He pushed himself to be in love with life and effortlessly showed others how to be awaken with him, which makes his death to hard.  He died playing music for the party, doing what he loves, with people who loved him and that he loved.  As tragic as it all end up, he’s taught me very important lessons about the tumultuous 2016.

At the end of the year, as I am hiding away to lick the wounds that this year has given me, I know I am alive, I am doing things I love doing, and making steps toward being the person I want to be.  As bad as I think this world is for taking so much from me, there are people who have lost more and are in dire situations.  As I loose friends in relocations, I know it’s those friendships that have made my life enriched, or that I was even lucky to be able to have those connections.  Even as I try to push myself in my life,  Johnny/Prince/Muhammad Ali reminds me that there is an interpersonal connection, one that makes the magic of the world, one you need to fight for and one that we can all use and give more of.

My perseverance has been tested all year, the curveballs of 2016 distracts me from a purpose and put roadblocks into my way.  There was some great things that came out of this year, some personal travel goals, the start of this blog, watching the growth of my amazing daughter, the Chicago Cubs winning the World Series, the birth of some awesome babies, and plenty more that I just don’t give enough attention to.  I am not done grieving, nor want to feel some sense of closure to 2016 by writing this post.  The year has left me broken, but not yet done.

I will be writing another list of resolutions for 2017.  I will probably be pretty miserable and unsure as I put those thoughts down for myself.  As in 2016, this laundry list of things will not be easy or measurable but will add to me and my life somehow.  Just like the end of this year has left me questioning my own happiness, it has also given me the freedom to not use “being happy” as the standard to gauge a year.  The year’s success comes from determination and dedication, it comes from pushing myself even if it means leaving myself exposed, and it comes from looking at everything in a larger picture.  My life is not only about me, it is my effects with the world and my community (a greater good), but it’s those connections that show me about how I can create meaning.  In remembering those I lost, it is clear that they gave me a sense of  happiness at some point in my life, my relationship to them is the stuff that makes me who I am.  As much as I would love to say that I hope my daughter is happy, I am more interested in knowing that she’s lived the fullest life possible, that she has been inspired and tested, that she received and gave care freely and that she pushed herself even when it was difficult.  This year was anything but happy, but I do feel like I have a better understanding on what that happiness means.

To all my friends, family, and people I have yet to meet; I sincerely hope you have the fullest of lives in the next year.  That we can all keep in mind a larger picture.  That we can all live in the experiences and relationships of life and not in the fear and caution that binds us so easily.  I hope we can live in memory of those we lost and know that in their absence, their magic lives with us, and we need to hold ourselves accountable to carry that on.

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