How wide is your perspective? The complicated, scientific answer comes from editors on Wikipedia:
“The approximate field of view of an individual human eye is 95° away from the nose, 75° downward, 60° toward the nose, and 60° upward, allowing humans to have an almost 180-degree forward-facing horizontal field of view.”
In regards to the new year, my answer is that we need to check our perspective and get over saying that 2016 was the worst year.
The year 2017 is still very fresh, and we are sitting around licking our wounds – as we have been for the past two months – as if it’s not time to move forward. In a lot of ways, we complacently decided we would ring in the new year on entitled laurels of shame and disappointment in a world that had failed us. And while we did do some things and make some pacts, we had all silently decided to make sure that whatever we did it would start happening after 2016. After every single hit from the past year, you’d think we would have stopped being phased. And I mean that for me, as well. This is me saying this in a mirror slowly.
Sometimes things were already this bad, and these events leading into the “worst year” was just affirmation of feelings. It’s as if we created a different kind of echo chamber. Not one in which we all just shut ourselves off from other opinions, but one where we all are standing in the same room shouting how bad it is, and the damaging words keep coming back to us in arrhythmic chorus. We cannot help but hate it. We cannot help but continue to say that we hate it. It’s all we’re hearing, and it’s all we know. The year 2016 had sparks of greatness despite being the “worst”.
The real reason I do believe that this past year wasn’t the worst, or that I’m trying to remind myself that it could have actually been bad, is because of the conversation it really started.
The age 26 has been an age of introspective and prospective reconnaissance for me. I’ve had to take time to look at what hurt, why it hurt, how I responded, did I hurt someone else, why it hurt them, what can I change, what isn’t in my control, what can I take control of, what do I want. A long, long list of questions with branches and points of perspective on each one. I’ve learned what it really means to be confident in who I am and my capabilities in the workplace and elsewhere. I’ve learned about my own femininity and strength, and the strong, irreplaceable connections that I can make with strong women in my life – the connection and the voices we have. I’ve always tried to explore the concept of “beauty” on more than one level, but this year I really came to understand it on new planes.
For every hardship, there was a conversation and a voice that rose up in defiance or in triumph. That is beautiful. For all of the deaths of idols, stars and celebrities that gave us something to look up to or look for, there were memorials of those lessons and a collective embodiment of power that made the passing seem easier. For all of the tragedy in just our country alone, there were more conversations being had about why they have happened or keep happening. Words lead to action.
I want to extrapolate the year, event after event, but some of events may be missed among the fodder, so I’m going hit the points that I remember the most vividly from 2016 and explain why there is something beautiful or meaningful to take from them.
Take the Good with the Bad:
What happened?: On January 5, 2016, Flint, Mich., was declared in a state of emergency because of water contamination in the Flint River. The contamination had been happening for over two years at that point, but the declaration from the state government caused an uproar in the media. Journalists across the country were completing exposés on the effects of water contamination and the likelihood that your town could be next. Birth defects, adolescent maturation defects and other health defects were listed at the top. Families were in a frenzy, victims felt their city and government had failed them.
The Good: Journalists continued to be a checks and balances of the country, making sure that they were on top of the story, leading other cities and states to double-check their own ecosystems for contamination, and the country came together and gave to those citizens and kept the conversation going so we did not forget about those victims, as we have in the past. By the way, it’s still not over: http://bigstory.ap.org/article/5ba32831635e4e1ab97b529819d9b18b
What happened?: I’m not even sure if at this point we have a numeration system that is capable of handling the lives we lost due to police brutality in 2016. It is hard to even swallow talking about this for me. I have family in law enforcement, and they deal with a very specific investigative side to it – not the every day traffic patrolling – and for them, there is another shade to the shootings and the Black Lives Matter movement. Their perspective doesn’t negate or equate to the killings that are ongoing and will be, though, and I do believe that they recognize that. Racism’s traditional definition does mean anyone can be racist. However, sociologists appropriated the word as an understanding of historical/systematic racism and prejudices that have oppressed and abused minorities for years in this country. Notably, as the conversation pertains right now: Blacks and African Americans. And that is where we are with the word today. We have seen a lot of stories, we have brutalities on camera, and we have watched people march in protest and in recognition of their humanity. Sometimes it feels like we’re getting nowhere.
The Good: Black Lives Matter is a beautiful movement when it’s in its truest form – power comes from struggle, even if it shouldn’t have to. Friends and families are coming together to finally stand up for human beings who have been treated as less than. Recently I had a very uplifting conversation with my best friend Ariel about how I’ve gotten to watch her come into her own as a woman – because we’re both the same age – and embrace what it means to be black for her. Identity cannot be qualified by anyone other than that person. That’s something I often still see people trying to do today, so a reminder may be necessary for the new year. In watching Ariel earn strength through who she is and embrace who she is, I’ve started looking more at the way my own perception of Black Lives Matter, my black friends and blackness can and does mean. Now is the time to reassure our black and African American friends that we are on the front lines with them and then be there. So many already have. Knowing that my friends have a voice in this fight brings me joy. I cannot wait for what’s in store, if we can stay on the right path in 2017. But we have to keep talking about the hard realities and opening ourselves to the understanding that there are other perspectives of what is happening, even if we’re on the same side. An actual, metaphorical echo chamber is detrimental.
What happened?: June 12, 2016, Orlando, Fla. In the same vein of Black Lives Matter, other “minorities” are often the target of hate crimes in this country, and the shooting in Orlando brought the LGBTQ community to a crashing halt. Families, friends, allies and community members in Florida and across the country were mourning the loss of so many young adults who were in what they had considered a safe haven that night with people who accepted and loved them for who they were. They were there to express joy and love and meet other people in their community.
The Good: It has been a while since I have seen our country stand up for the victims and the LGBTQ community so quickly if really at all. Mass shootings seem to strike a very delicate chord with people. It wasn’t hard to imagine a world in which even havens were compromised, much in the same way that a church might be a haven to others. Hate drives so much, but love can heal it all and usher a new start. One of my favorite moments, which brought me to complete tears, was the vigil that was held in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter that night at Universal Studios – both in remembrance of a worker who lost his life that night and the event itself. Nearly a week later we visited Orlando and there were so many banners and signs standing up for the LGBTQ community. So much of a reminder to persevere and love each other. We shouldn’t need to use times like those to remind people, but the point is that we didn’t back down and fail to do so. Always be an ally. It can save lives.
What happened?: Celebrity deaths can sometimes be hard. Crumudgeon people will tell you that there is no reason to be upset about a death of someone you don’t know. I feel like any loss of a life can be hard to handle – mortality isn’t easy to reason with for some. More often than the actual life is the way that person led their life and the symbol they were for the rest of us. A celebrity is often a focal point, a model, of something. Sure, we do feel connected in some ways to their lives or what we know of them, but truly their lives are abstract. When we lose them, we can feel like we’ve lost a pioneer. And we lost quite a few in 2016, but what they taught us or did for us didn’t actually change anything.
The Good: We can find strength in their strength, as we did in life, but in spite of the death that took them from us. Their work isn’t over because it’s through us. Most notably we see that through Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds. Writers, Star Wars fanatics, Halloween Town and Singin’ in the Rain lovers, mental illness advocates and strong women everywhere learned something so empowering from them. I saw a Tweet that said that Carrie Fisher’s role of Princess Leia taught young girls everywhere that they could, while still looking flawless, pick up the gun and save themselves. All I could think in response was that in her life – both as knowing Leia Organa to grow to be a jedi and senator, and knowing the strength and attitude that Carrie Fisher had – those little girls everywhere (myself heavily included) have grown up to become women who can shout, “I can save myself!” at the top of our lungs with pride. We’re doing it because of Carrie. She was brains and brawn, in life and in art. I’ll never forget her. And the same can be said for so many of the others we lost: Alan Rickman, David Bowie, Prince, and many others. These artists molded us and made us live for something and demand our place in the world. Don’t forget what you learned through them. Grow because of them and be stronger in spite of their death. Let the world know they’re never truly lost.
What happened?: Brexit was a strange one; those who were keeping tabs on the socio-economical and political environment of Britain at the time of the Brexit vote were probably wondering what would happen next. Stock market predictions were hypothesizing a drop in the value of European currency and catastrophic relations with trade. It also gave some of the worst racists of the country a voice and a platform to say that their vote was only for keeping refugees/immigrants out of their country. There were videos of people shouting terrible things on the rails and in shopping centers. Some were predicting that this was the start of the same kind of divisive behavior that threw countries into World War I and World War II. To scale, those concerns aren’t too far-fetched.
The Good: I believe just as with Black Lives Matter and Orlando, despite the bigotry that has shown its ugly head, there is so much love to give. I have been witness to outpourings of people trying to reassure POC that they have value that’s un-quantifiable and infinite, and that they shouldn’t need us to say, but we’re saying it because we have to. If the system is based on the privilege of a white person, then we need to make sure we’re standing up with everyone. Right now our POC friends and family need us.
What happened?: The presidential election, November 2016. The presidential campaign the entire year. Donald Trump. Here is my truth: I am not happy with the way things went. Republicans that label themselves as Deplorables, rather than just being human, will often say that non-Trump lovers are just “whiny babies” upset that they didn’t win. They are missing a large mark if they think this is just about a competition. “Make America Great Again” is a slogan more concerned about the vanity of keeping America as a “superpower,” than words of someone who understands the value of United Nations and foreign relations. It’s more about winning the beauty pageant than working towards a goal. Voters used the infinite research resources and social media at their fingertips to create media funnels of information, rather than exposing themselves to what might be on the other side, and chose to ignore the threats of a safe future for their children and grandchildren by either voting for this man out of bigotry or because they’ve never voted outside of their party before and were ashamed to try now. People were fooled by trucker hats and a familiar TV personality into somehow believing that they were free of the political elitism that always rules the White House, but all they did was let in a man who has done nothing but lead the way in corrupt business for the last 2 decades, at least, most of that time while jeopardizing the lives and jobs of the middle class and lower class workers that swear he will be their savior to bring back the jobs they lost. With headlines always boasting how terrible millennials are, rather than understanding our current place in the workforce and our understanding of the sociological and technological progressions we are trying to make as a young society, a House, Senate and Office like this will only work harder to try to invalidate our standing in the world – never actually working towards a future for us, but for a short-lived future of their own. If you feel unsafe during this time, don’t let people tell you that you’re being dramatic, and that the world will still tick by the same as it always has. They only feel so confidently because things went their way for them this time; this has nothing to do with losing, this has to do with the gravity of his words and his actions in front of a camera and behind it. (And if you’re wondering where the “proof” is still, I’ll wonder if this is just a legitimate ask of someone who is insecure in their own researching abilities. For that, I’d be willing to sit down with you and work through the based ways to research for answers in a sea of misinformation, and show you the best sources for news.)
The Good: We have to thrive in spite of this. We have to be someone who is willing to take a page out of our idols’ books and affect change, make people listen, but also have complete conversations that listen to all sides. We have to empathize where empathy seems impossible. We have to fight when we need to fight. And we need to not be afraid to make sure that our voices are heard in the face of adversity; we can’t be timid anymore. We can’t afford to be. This is a time of action. And we’re already seeing people do that: Have tough conversations, face harsh realities, be true to who they are despite it all. We have to make sure that we’re building a future for ourselves and generations ahead of us. That starts with really listening to them and finding out what they want, and not just sticking to our standards of living as if it will benefit an entirely different lifestyle decades later. We have to understand that progression happens with or without us. We have to continue to move with life for life.
What I’m looking forward to:
- More connections and deep conversations and empowering words from my female friendships
- Another year with my husband, Tripp
- Another year at my job, or wherever else this job or another may take me
- Self care and learning more lessons
- Learning Japanese even more
- Learning to think about the other person before I respond
- Not internalize the petty and trivial problems
- Get back to a routine that makes all of this possible because I’m living my life to its fullest, healthiest extent
- New projects
- More writing sprints, more chances to get published, more books
- Working on my mental and physical health by working to lose excess weight and build a stronger routine in my life to keep myself accountable