Have you ever witnessed such widespread hatred for a calendar year? It’s weird to see the negativity so massively accepted and agreed upon. Really, the ENTIRE year was “THEE (I Can’t Even/I’m Literally Shaking) WORST”? Unfortunately, your brain won’t gain the sudden ability to focus on positivity once the New Year’s ball drops.
(I’ve never understood the whole “I can’t change now; it’s not January 1st yet!” approach. Unless it allows for a few more fleeting moments of indulgence – but indulging in negativity? It does take more effort to be positive, so, maybe.)
Those who express and accept that 2016 contained the most awful 365 days of their life are typically operating on one or two factors:
- Musicians/actors I enjoy died this year.
- This year was difficult for me on a political level.
For #1, I’ve got more empathy. David Bowie’s death still hurts; I’m currently sitting where I was when I found out he’d died, and recalling that moment still makes me want to cry. Writing this piece on him certainly helped.
I can’t criticize anyone’s grieving process, but unless you were an absolute superfan with a shrine and tattoos of one of the departed talents, I have a hard time believing that the entire year was irredeemable because one or more of them happened to die between 1/1 and 12/31. But unless the person was a sadist – in which case, you probably wouldn’t be a superfan anyway – they would certainly find a celebration of their work more of a touching tribute than declaring your entire year ruined. Therefore, I don’t get #1.
For #2, this might have to be further broken down, because of the nature of the “difficulty.”
A. People who were distraught by the division between supporters of different presidential candidates.
-I can understand this. It was hard to see friends having Facebook battles. And it wasn’t always easy to witness peers and celebrities that I otherwise like and respect spouting uncharacteristic stupidity. It wasn’t a joy, but it was certainly navigable, if not a forced learning opportunity. (More on that later.)
B. People who hated the election results. Requires further breakdown:
i. People who’d resigned months ago that the results would suck no matter who won.
-Maybe I’m projecting, but I don’t think those people would have been clobbered by that realization, at least not to the point that they’d decry 2016 an abject failure of a year.
ii. People upset that Hillary lost/Trump won.
-Sure. I just don’t remember anyone in prior presidential election years writing off the entire 12 months as awful because the person they voted for lost, so I’m not sure if I get this one either. Nearly half of all voters have to ride out unfavorable election results every four years. People always threaten to leave the country, but don’t, and manage to get through it.
iii. People who think 2016 was the year in which freedom ended and all the awful isms and phobias of the world ascended, a wave upon which Hitler 2.0 was whisked onto his throne.
-This is the wildest one to me. First of all, the “Trump is Hitler” thing was ridiculous. Mitt freaking Romney was also Hitler, wasn’t he? And W. before him. But Trump is really, actually Hitler this time? The only people to rival the neurosis of the “Obammer’s gunna take R gunz!” crowd are those who think Trump will round up all non-white non-straight non-Christian non-males into concentration camps. If I’m wrong, I’ll be on the front lines fighting anything of that nature. No, thinking Trump isn’t Hitler does not equate to support. Be mad, be more active and vigilant, but I sincerely hope this crowd will allow itself to stop freaking out unreasonably. And if you hate Trump, why would you let him ruin your year?
I think I’ve now covered most of anti-’16’ers, but not everyone. Surely some people had legitimately terrible years. If you had friends or loved ones die in 2016, or lost your job or your home, or you or someone you love was diagnosed with a horrible disease, or you experienced any other kind of personal catastrophe that lasted and marred the entire year, I’m sorry that it’s been such a painful time for you and I certainly hope things are better in 2017. But if you’re essentially justifying your wholesale hatred of 2016 because celebrities died and politics disappointed you, that’s pretty weak. For a lot of my friends, we’re in the sweet spot of our lives, and writing off an entire year of it seems like a colossal waste.
If 2016’s been agonizing for you, you may find the following either heartening, or infuriating: this was the best year of my life so far. Maybe it’ll be the single best year I’ll ever enjoy. Maybe it was me and those around me at our absolute best. Maybe it was overall good fortune. Of course it had its negative moments, but I really appreciated this year.
Nothing really bad happened to any of my friends. In fact, some fell in love, and some of them got married and had excellent weddings. Some had kids, or are currently pregnant. Some got jobs they like or relocated and are happier for it.
Nothing catastrophic happened in my family. My grandma, who’s about my favorite person on the planet, had a heart attack, but she’s doing okay. For the “2016 = Worst” crowd, it’s obviously easy to take for granted, but you likely failed to appreciate perhaps the greatest privilege of all: good health.
Here are some of my personal highlights from the year:
- My wife having our baby daughter at home with a midwife.
- Getting much farther in the process of adopting my stepson.
- Getting to play a bunch of wild concerts thanks to Cory Chisel: Meyer Theatre, Summerfest, Jones Park in Appleton for thousands, the Timber Rattlers’ stadium.
- Meeting Matt Sharp from Weezer, and Jimmy Chamberlin from Smashing Pumpkins (and jamming with him!), also thanks to Cory.
- Opening for Nobunny, Diane Coffee, JD McPherson, and Left Lane Cruiser.
- Playing shows with 8 different bands.
- Overall, in terms of playing shows and meeting people, this was just a great year.
- Writing 11 articles for Frankly Green Bay.
- Filming ~15 episodes of Live From Stadium Drive.
- Meeting Ty Montgomery, Randall Cobb, Brett Hundley, and Rob Demovsky.
- Completely remodeling our kitchen, and finishing it the day before my wife’s home birth.
It was a wild one, and I set some high marks for myself this year. In terms of responsibilities I held down, and what I accomplished on top of them, I may never have another year this productive. (I secretly hope I can do more in ’17.)
I also learned far, far more than I ever had. Loads of autodidacticism. I needed it to get through life’s confusion, and especially the intensity of the news cycle during the campaign; I learned I could either be rocked by every new headline or bit of analysis, or I could work harder to try and define my principles. A forced learning opportunity – all but necessary for mental survival. I dove more into history and read more sources’ reporting on current events than ever before in my life. I’d never fought harder to maintain independent thought. I would’ve rather remained unaffected, but I’m glad for it now. I am a much better critical thinker than I was before 2016. I’m proud that I’ve learned more, but know less than I used to. That make sense?
I think I’ll always strive to appreciate life from the perspective of my early 20s, when I was a romantically lonely college student, clueless about my career path, paycheck-to-paycheck, looking to create good work, but also wanting to enjoy life. I’ll always have empathy for that solitary figure, that pseudo-Steppenwolf.
Then again, although it’s the most important, mostly all that’s changed is my love life. But still, if that broke, single, discouraged person suddenly awoke and experienced my 2016, he’d be pretty thrilled.
For those who need to burn 2016 in some sort of effigy in order to move on, I hope they can. But I think most are just blaming internal problems on external events, and will likely find all new scapegoats next year.
Regardless of how your year was, or how you believe it was, or how you believe you believe it was, may 2017 be an enjoyable one.
PS. I think my favorite albums of the year were Bowie’s, Iggy’s, and Kanye’s. Of Montreal’s had its moments, but still felt like a let-down after their last two. I don’t think I saw any new movies this year – crazy! Hoping to catch “Rogue One” this week.