I'm angry about how 2016 turned out, and that's okay.
That doesn't mean I think it was all bad, or that some amazing things haven't happened. There are so many truly inspiring articles being shared this week about the scientific breakthroughs of 2016, the ways in which people's lives are better all around the world, and individual celebrations taking place over health, engagements, and children. All of these deserve to be celebrated as we close out 2016, certainly! I myself took my first extended trip to Disney World this year (an obvious win if you know us), and we got engaged as we traveled on my first trip to Mexico! I voted for a woman for president for the first time, an experience I won't soon forget. I traveled through work or pleasure to New York City 3 times, Chicago, Atlanta, DC, Boston, Orlando, Mazatlan, Puerto Vallarta, Cabo, and Las Vegas. (phew) I ran my first half marathon a whole 15 seconds under my goal time, and my sister moved in with us. It has been a year that truly is full of personal moments I will cherish forever. I'm not trying to take away from any of these things.
Truly, however, I'm leaving this year exhausted for our world. I was listening recently to someone on the radio explaining that his theory of 2016's surprising political reactions is simply that the world is reacting to the 'globalization of people.' (I made the mistake of not immediately writing down the speaker, but after some googling I'm pretty confident it was this author.) Simply put, peoples fears of other types of people have won in 2016, and even I have fallen subject to this years intense divisiveness. I too, have had a hard time loving the people who voted for our new President-Elect. It's caused a great rift in our family, and in the people I used to consider best friends.
I'm angry that the new version of far right conservatism is finding roots across the world. The rise of Le Pen in France, Brexit and Theresa May in Britain, and of course our homegrown Trump has left the social progress I have quite literally grown up knowing feeling completely thrown out. I was too young to vote for Obama in his first election, but I was paying attention. I watched as Obama's inclusiveness and kind but stern nature were thrown out by Washington conservatives, as they obstructed everything socially 'progressive' he promised in his campaign. I watched with respect as Obama remained a leader of strength, calm, and intelligence, and learned from his leadership. For the last eight years (more or less as long as I have been politically motivated) I have watched social progress on the front lines. I was able to 'slack off' in some ways, because I knew that by and large I agreed with how Obama would react to whatever showed up on his desk. In many ways, embarrassingly, I knew that someone else out there was fighting the good fight for me. 2016 showed me that I never had that safety to begin with. 2016's end has been a personal reflection on how much Obama has influenced me and the world I live in.
So yes, watching as 2016 unfolded has been increasingly painful. It hurts when Justin comes home heartbroken over his students crying over fear of deportation from the only country they've ever known. It hurts as I hear of two mom or two dad families rushing to finish up their adoption paperwork, in fear that the atmosphere will change to a point where the child they love will not be theirs legally come January. It hurts watching these marginalized people that I love fear that the progress that has been made over the last decade will be lost. It hurt watching friends become more and more normalized by Trump, and move from a respectful conservatism where we can debate over tax plans and immigration policies, to a democratic bashing, divisive, hateful leader of a new brand of politics that doesn't match what I respected in them at all. That was the most painful.
I don't mean to sound so negative on the last day of the year, but reflecting on this year has been more difficult than most years. I hurt for our world and the hatred and anger and fear that has led us to this point. How did we become so afraid of one another? How did other languages become aggression instead of wonder? When did learning about other religions in school become political instead of important to create a worldly mind? It hurts watching people I love intentionally close themselves off from people who are different than them, on a macro and a micro scale.
So, in 2017, I'm resolving to do something about it. I've registered to volunteer with the ACLU locally, who amazingly are too full for new volunteers at the time. I've subscribed to several legitimate news outlets and have set up the renewing donations I had going to Clinton's campaign to Planned Parenthood and the ACLU. I clearly do not back away from my liberal standpoint, but instead of just chatting about it, I now feel incredible pressure to do something about it. To act way, way more. I'm considering what a career in public service would mean, and where to start. I'm sorting out my mediocre grades from my undergrad and pursuing a graduate degree. I'm not aiming low, I'm aiming high. I know that I can be someone who is writing public policy, instead of just reacting to it. I will turn the disappointment and heartbreak and anger over this year into action. This world cannot go on this way. We are better together than we are apart. No human being is scary just because they are different. I will use that mantra to create a better community.
I am not naïve. I understand that tomorrow the world will be the same as it is today. But I find no shame in celebrating 2016 taking its final bow. I find no guilt in resolving to be a better version of my self than I am now. I love fresh starts, and I am not ashamed to say that even though I only ‘accomplished’ a few of the goals I set for myself this time last year, I am still glad I set yearly goals out for myself. I will celebrate when the clock hits midnight, and I will work my ass off for a better 2017, for all of us.