2016 is almost over and I don’t think I’ve ever been so ready for a year to end. Admittedly, I haven’t lived very many years, so I don’t have that many years to compare it to. On the other hand, many of the adults I know and admire, people two or three or even four times my age, have said something to the effect of this also being the hardest year of their life.
This year was incredibly difficult on a personal level. This summer, for instance, was basically one long haze of depression, of sleeping away the days because I was sad for no reason and didn’t know what else to do – had, in fact, no energy to do anything else. I also broke up multiple friendships once I realized I didn’t need these absolutely awful people in my life. When the fall semester began things were looking up but then the election happened and killed a lot of my motivation, feeling of safety, et cetera.
In 2016, it was not easy to look to the rest of the world – look outside of my own life – for happiness. It felt as though I were watching an endless parade of bad things happening, one after another after another: Brexit, Aleppo, the US presidential election.
The steady rise in hatred and bigotry, too. Which has always been around… but I think many of the events of this year legitimized people’s hatred and made them feel that their views were justified. While I’ve never felt completely safe as a lesbian, or indeed as a woman in general, I definitely think the election made many unafraid to openly express their homophobia, misogyny, et cetera.
And don’t even get me started on other forms of hatred that I don’t experience, such as racism and transphobia! They’ve always been there, but it was so disheartening to see so much of them this year. (I won’t say “to see them out in full force this year,” because as positive as I am trying to be about 2017’s possibilities, I think it is only realistic to expect many of the political events of the past year to have a great effect on the coming one.)
And the celebrity deaths! There were so many! There are many every year, and many ordinary people die. This year it felt as though we were hit particularly hard though. I personally felt a lot of regret about not having written to some of those people before they died. I mean, ideally it would’ve been great to meet them in person, but I’ve always been big on letter-writing.
These people loomed large in the memories of my childhood and I wish I would’ve said thank you for your music, your art, your writing, your advocacy. At the beginning of 2016 I was still getting over my regret of never sitting down to write a letter to Terry Pratchett telling him all that his books meant to me and now that this hell year is over, I’ve felt that way many times over towards others. I suppose the only thing I can do now is to try to emulate my heroes’ best qualities – oh, and to write to the ones who are still living. I’m going to write something to Ian McKellen and John Williams this week.
But 2016 wasn’t all bad. A couple of days ago I made a list of all the good things that happened, both in my life and in the world, with the intention of posting them one at a time throughout the final day of the year with the hashtag #highlightsof2016 or #2016wasntallbad or something like that. Well, that didn’t happen, mostly because I woke up late and had to catch up on my 2016 Goodreads reading challenge and then we visited my grandma, so I ran out of time. I can post it all together here, though:
- Shared a room (at two different times) with Luísa and Bridget, two girls who soon went from being merely my roommates to close friends of mine (I never would have met Luísa if I’d decided to study abroad in Dublin this past summer and would never have met Bridget if I’d chosen to live in an apartment instead of the dorms during the 2016-17 school year!)
- Met a bunch of really amazing people for the first time this year, including Shelby, Elin, Merric, Ash, Kevin, Sophie, Ellen, Erin, Betsy, Alex, Hannah, Bridget, and Luísa
- Attended MBLGTACC (otherwise known as the Midwest Bisexual Lesbian Gay Transgender Ally College Conference) and made a ton of new friends
- Made a bucket list for this past summer and actually completed most of the items on it
- Took an acting class, which is something I’ve wanted to do since I was a little kid
- Took a class on Wonder Woman that left me with an incredible passion for this superheroine
- Took more journalism classes, which made me fall even further in love with this choice of major
- Was taught by some absolutely amazing professors and one great TA: Shout-out to Anna Barker (Wonder Woman Unleashed), Kerry Howley (Prose Style), Blaine Greteman (Shakespeare 400 and Foundations of the English Major), and Volha Kananovich (Media Uses & Effects) for being so wonderful by pushing me to do my best work and supporting me when I needed it
- Joined the Iowa Writers’ House (!!!)
- Sought out the mental health help I needed
- Grew closer to the LGBTQ+ community in Iowa City through things such as Pride, a candlelight vigil held for the victims of the Orlando shooting, and just plain inadvertently meeting and befriending so, so many older LGBTQ+ people (I’m really good at this)
- Met some of my favorite (and hugely inspirational) authors on the planet, such as Alison Bechdel, Roxane Gay, Rick Riordan, and Lois Lowry
- Watched the Olympics, which ultimately just made me super proud of the US athletes as well as super gay for Simone Biles and Katie Ledecky
- Went to the movies with friends and watched things such as Carol, Batman v Superman, Rent, Ghostbusters, Finding Dory, The BFG, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Moana, and Rogue One – and, although I did not enjoy all of those movies and although some of them cannot be truthfully said to be “fun” because they’re actually rather heartbreaking, what matters is that I enjoyed this time with friends
And of course, any end-of-year wrap-up post here on Musings From Neville’s Navel wouldn’t be complete without mentioning my Goodreads reading challenge goal for the year. Yay for accomplishments! Yay for happy happenings! I met my goal of reading one hundred books in 2016 by reading just that, exactly one hundred. I would’ve liked to read more because god knows my TBR is out of control as it is, but I also recognize that A) I did meet my goal and B) that was despite struggling with some of the worst depression I’ve ever experienced.
I should also mention the resolutions I wrote down on January first of this year, because I always do that. I wanted to “make sleep a priority,” “get my TBR list under control,” and “work up the courage to actually go on dates and stuff.” I worked hard to achieve the first one (and will continue to do so in this coming year), failed miserably (and laughably) at the second resolution, and made progress on the final goal (!!!!!!) but am not going to say anything more on that at the moment because I haven’t decided how private I want to be about this. (The suspense intensifies. I am a woman of mystery, clearly.)
I tried to salvage what I could from 2016. The beginning of the year seems so far away now! In some ways I feel that I grew and changed immensely during the past twelve months. In other ways I feel like I’m even more lost, confused, scared, and worried than ever before.
I hope that 2017 will be better. I’m doing my best not to set my hopes too high, because I know I’ll only be disappointed if I do. But I can focus on realistic aims, such as doing what I can to be kinder to myself. To strive to make things better for others who also need that.
I hope that 2017 will be a lot like 2014, to be honest. The good parts of 2014, that is. 2014 wasn’t all good for me – I had absolutely no IRL friends, for instance, and was in desperate need of mental health help – but in many other respects, it was a much more fulfilling year than 2016 ever was. It’s funny, in my 2016 New Year’s resolutions linked to above, I said the same thing: 2014 was MY YEAR.
Well, here’s to hoping I get a second chance to achieve that. I read so much, wrote so much, experienced so much that year. I worked multiple jobs and traveled and was involved in multiple organizations. It was a year rich with good memories and good experiences, one that I think about often, and if I had to describe the overarching dream that all my smaller, individual goals fit into and help to fulfill, it would be my wish to make the coming year have as many of the best and as few of the worst attributes possible of one of my past best years. I need that, after a year like this one.
Goodbye, 2016. Hello, 2017.