So I’ve been thinking a lot about 2017 and the new year because hello I’m nothing if not basic. And the truth is, it was a great year. For me.
…it was also a truly terrible year for society and the world at large. I mean, some real ugly truths reared their heads last year. And to be honest, it really affected me.
I felt so bothered and broken by the way people can be so cruel and arrogant and dumb and shortsighted and selfish and hateful and truly, truly terrible. I lost a lot of faith in humanity. It all felt a little…hopeless. From the environment to politics to social injustice and the self-destructive course we seem to be on.
But life is a funny thing, and even the worst of times can still carry the best of moments. After all, I got married. I got a dog. We got to see family. Spend time with babies who make the world seem a little more bright. I found a creative outlet, started a podcast about Taylor Swift. I cared more about my impact and influence, changing habits and priorities. I read more. Watched more.
So while I felt a little battered by 2017, I’m ultimately grateful.
It feels like such a cliche to say that, I know.
But I am.
I’m proud of who I am. I’m proud of what I care about. I’m honestly proud that I was so hurt and broken by the awful things I was seeing. Because at least I was seeing them.
I think it’s a hard balancing act, caring about things without being defeated by things. I know I can do better in that arena: living. It just feels sort of strange though, doesn’t it? To tweet about how wonderful The Greatest Showman is while Trump tweets about his fake news awards. Or to share a #blessed on instagram while neo-nazis march and women say #metoo. It’s hard to watch videos of polar bears dying and straws stuck up a sea turtle’s nose; to read the horrific accounts of mass shootings and racist cops; to scroll past yet another hate crime or another vengeful tweet; to watch movies and read books about historical moments that feel all too relevant now. It can be so infuriating to see people go on with their lives while the government threatens net neutrality, burdens the less privileged with more taxes, sells off land they promised they wouldn’t, comes after women’s health, bans the term “transgender,” basically admits to colluding with Russia. And I know it’s just more of the same, just par for the course, that bad things always happen and life just goes on.
But it’s hard.
So now it’s 2018 and I realized the other night, as Trump tweeted a threat of nuclear war with the flippant disregard of a truly deranged sociopath, that the end of the year (or the start of a new one) doesn’t automatically promise anything. It’s not a reset; it’s not a clean slate. Life trudges on, yes, but always with the same baggage.
But there’s the thing: if good things can still happen in 2017, then good things can continue to happen in 2018. And while this start of a new year might not be anything more than a man-made bookend to mark the passage of time, it still feels like a good excuse for some self reflection.
For instance, I want to be more positive.
And that’s not to discredit my rage. I think it’s important and necessary and only sane that we be mad about maddening things. Because complacency is a poison. But looking to this new year, I know I want to be hopeful.
Well, maybe not hopeful.
Hope can feel so passive. Like we just hope something gets better, hope something will be better.
I want to be active.
I want to be positive, to be charged with optimism and move forward to do things and be better.
So here are my goals.
read one book a month, something I’ve never read before.
make at least three of those books non-fiction.
write a chapter a week. at least.
blog once a month.
watch six documentaries.
keep a gratitude journal. daily.
eat an exclusively plant-based diet at home.
call my representatives at least once a month.
do yoga once a week.
talk to god more.
reach out to old friends.
take more photos.
learn to take better photos.
do one thing that scares me. I don’t know what yet.
There is no question that 2017 was a year that will go down in infamy. Even for me personally, even with all the wonderful things to be grateful for, it has still been emotional. It’s been chaotic. It’s been hard.
It’s also been wonderful.
And from all that — the mess of emotions, the hodgepodge of good and bad, bright and glaring — from all that, I’ve felt stronger. Prouder. Driven. Grounded. More confident. It’s strange that it takes a beating to realize how tough you are. It’s odd that sometimes you need to lose something — faith, hope, naivety — to realize what matters most to you. It’s messy transitioning from the abridged version of yourself, watered down to seem more palatable, to a fully fledged, complex, imperfect reality that might make more than a few people unfriend you on Facebook.
I’m excited to see what comes next. I don’t know if I believe things can get better from here. For the world, I mean. Maybe we really are on a downward spiral as people refuse responsibility, accountability in the name of protecting their own self-interests. But I do believe that we can be better. I can be better. We can do more.
It’s not enough to rave. It’s not enough to rage. We should face the storm, let it carve out pieces of us. Look it in the eye and see the turmoil, the pain, the fury and the fear. And we should brace ourselves. Feel its wind. Hear its scream. And rise above it.
Does that make sense?
I want to believe I’m strong enough to survive things. But more than that, I want to thrive in spite of things.
So here’s to a year of joy and frustration, fear and faith. Here’s hoping we don’t all die in a nuclear blast and the ambivalent are right in their blind faith that things will simply carry on. But here too is to those who are scared, who are affected, who are anxious abut their standing in a world that continues to draw battle lines and throw barbs. I want to find a voice to challenge the oppressors, but I also want to protect myself against their toxic apathy. I want to continue to become someone I’m proud of being.
Someone involved — in the grander sphere and in my personal life. I want to take care of my body, my mind, my creative spirit. I want to build a center of gravity that can ripple out to affect the people I truly care about. I want to stay aware, stay fulfilled, stay positive.
You know, beyond my wedding and the spattering of a few truly encouraging, beautiful, optimistic moments in 2017, one of the most liberating moments was sitting down to watch a silly musical about the beginnings of the circus.
Only it wasn’t really about the circus.
It was about the forgotten finding their voices. It was about rising above hate and mistakes and reminding themselves and each other that they matter, that joy matters. And maybe it’s strange that such a movie could stand out as a happier moment in a singular year, but I felt so enthused watching it. It was a relief. I felt so optimistic suddenly with that music reverberating through my head.
I am brave, I am bruised, I am who I’m meant to be. This is me.
Because, the truth is, we can go on about how important important films are, how stupid stupid politicians are, how dangerous dangerous leaders can be. But sometimes you just need to be reminded of how strong the light is. Not just blithely hoping that things will carry on; but actively shouting above the fray, sharing joy and insisting on positivity. Sometimes, more than anything, you need to sit in a crowded movie theater to see Zendaya rage dance in spite of life’s pretty disappointments; sometimes, you just need to spend a day with a puppy who only knows how to smile her big, derpy smile; sometimes, you need to remember that a year overwhelmed with so much bad news can also carry triumphant moments of love and laughter and that human tenacity to carry on.
And, even better, if you know me at all…sometimes, you just need to pull out the camera and have a photo shoot. Laugh. Bask in the joy. Seize the opportunity to be silly, to be present, to be empowered and loud and out there because life — no matter how messy, how inconsequential yours might feel — it’s always worth remembering.
So, hi, 2018? Bring it.