Saturday, December 31, 2016

Adios, Au Revoir, Aloha, Audi 5000

Is 2016 the worst year ever? Is it really the actual dumpster fire I've come to think of it as? A year that kicked off with the death of David Bowie, is ending with a series of sad celebrity deaths (Carrie Fisher, George Michael, Debbie Reynolds) in quick succession not to mention all the garbage things that happened in the middle. Even NPR chimed in on the argument this week. While I appreciate their use of a dumpster fire GIF in the article, it also ends up being a pretty solid discussion on whether it's the year or the way in which we consume news and information in the modern age. Twitter can suck it...apparently.

To  add a little more fuel to the dumpster fire, a friend of mine recently posted an article on Facebook (purveyor of all the news you need to survive 2016, fake or otherwise) that posited that 2016 is not killing people; their poor choices over the years are what is to blame. It goes on to say we need to get over blaming the actual year for things that would inevitably happen. That these deaths all happened in 2016 is just the way life and the aging process work. The recent deaths of George Michael and Carrie Fisher were pointed to as examples of people who abused drugs throughout or at some point in their lives so we shouldn't be surprised they suffered from heart attacks and died relatively young (53 and 60 respectively). I get where the writer was going but I also felt like it was a lazy argument. She could have gone further and started with David Bowie had she really wanted to make the argument stick. Bowie spent much of the 1970s in a coke-filled haze; I've always been surprised that he made it out of that decade alive. And then went on to make the most ridiculous video ever: a cover of "Dancing in the Streets" with Mick Jagger. Is he wearing a jumpsuit? I don't know.

Yes, people die all the time. Famous people, not famous people, infamous people - it literally happens everyday. I understand that; most people understand that. Celebrity deaths are different because we're not actually involved in their lives but we are at the same time. Celebrities are celebrities because fans exist so they need us for that whole being famous thing and we need them for that whole "being inspired by their art" thing. I didn't personally know David Bowie or Prince or Abe Vigoda or Carrie Fisher but I knew them. I cried when heard David Bowie died (as I did when Lou Reed died a few years ago). It wasn't because I knew him but because he was a part of my life. His music is the music of growing up and figuring out your life as I wrote right after his death. The same thing is true of Carrie Fisher. She inspired so many young women to be the fighter and the princess at the same time because you can. She also worked hard for mental health issues and was honest about her own struggles. She was inspiring, she was a warrior. Even if 2016 is not to blame for their deaths, we're still allowed to be sad about their passing whether their previous poor life choices contributed or not. Grief is grief; you don't get to control or to judge others while they experience it. And we can blame 2016 if we want to especially if it helps us grieve.

We've all been calling 2016 the worst year since it started. There's even a meme called "Me at the Beginning of 2016 vs. Me at the End of 2016" that's sad and funny all at the same time. It wasn't only the volume of celebrity deaths that made this year a true dumpster fire. There was the horrible election cycle, catastrophic storms and hurricanes, the horrors of Aleppo, the unnecessary deaths of so many by police around the US, mass shootings. I could go on but I won't. We've had to deal with some heavy shit this year and we all deal with it in our own ways. I have friends who are still walking around in a daze because the Trump is going to be our next president. I've had to tell them several times to snap out of it. It's time to do the work of making sure his hate-filled, crazy pants agenda doesn't actually happen. You can't do that if you look like you haven't slept in months. I'm sure my "snap out of it" attitude is not helping but seriously, it's time to snap out of it.

I admit I haven't wanted a year to end more since 2005 but I still don't know that I'd call this the worst year. We can sit here and discuss every terrible thing that happened but will that actually solve? What will we accomplish by doing that? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. What we do now is figure out how to make 2017 a better year. I want everyone to waltz (literally or figuratively) into 2017 feeling empowered, emboldened, and energized for what's coming next. It's time to figure out how you want to make your life and the world a better place. I don't make New Year's resolutions; I prefer to set some goals for myself. Goals are better.

This year, I have a slightly longer list than last year but I think it's totally manageable. Here's what I'm focusing on this time around:
  • Finishing Transient Suburbia - this was a goal in 2016 and I'm almost done but not quite. I don't consider this a failure because I made a ton of progress and have one more section to write. This novel will be done in 2017 and it will find a home somewhere in the world.
  • Participate in the Women's March on Washington - Let me know if you'll be there on January 21st!
  • Donate time/money to organizations that will need more help given the new administration. I'm focusing on Planned Parenthood, The Trevor Project, and a local group that I'm still researching.
  • Get more involved in local and state politics. There are lots of ways to do this: writing my representatives, going to city/county meetings, voting (I always vote but you know what I mean). The saying "If you don't vote, you can't complain" should be expanded to "If you don't participate, you can't complain." 
  • Continue my gym going and make some decisions as to whether yoga is where I should spend my time. How should I celebrate hitting 10 million steps? It's going to happen very soon.
  • Complete at least two certifications or courses for work. Haven't decided what I'll focus on yet but I have time and lots of ideas.
  • Help my parents shift through the nightmare that is their basement - this will happen in 2017. Mark my words.
  • Get out there and enjoy 2017 - I've got a road trip planned, concerts to consider, and a new apartment to look forward to. Let's do this 2017. 
Did 2016 suck? Yes. Was it the worst year ever? I don't think so but it was certainly up there on the list of years that needed to end swiftly. Will 2017 be better? I hope so. Remember, dear Island readers, rebellions are built on hope.

I'll leave you with a little song from Green Day off their new album Revolution Radio. It's one of my favorite songs off this album and a fitting way to end a dumpster fire year. Enjoy!

Happy New Year from the Island of Misfit Toys! As I remind you every year, please enjoy your celebrations responsibly. I'll see you in 2017!!

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