So Carrie Fisher died. And her mom died the very next day. Debbie Reynolds’ passing sent the 2016 naysayers into their final bout of “I’m so done,” and it sent me into an emotional hyper-drive. So I find myself sitting here now, at 10:22 p.m., composing this blog when I should be resting for a 6:30 a.m. wake-up call. The plight of the constantly overstimulated.
Whether from an unprecedented amount of gun violence and global terrorism, or arguably the most polarizing election in recent history (and an uncanny amount of celebrity deaths), 2016 was a pretty dire year. I think a lot of people feel uncertain and hopeless right now, which really saddens me.
This is something I struggle with—because 2016 was the best year of my life.
I don’t say that to delegitimize others’ struggles, because I know 2016 brought a lot of pain, suffering and heartbreak to a lot of people—some of whom I know and care about deeply.
But I feel a little guilty partaking in the chorus of “Is 2016 over yet?” when it brought me the most joy, growth and fulfillment I’ve ever felt.
Maybe 2016 was great for you. Maybe it wasn’t. For me, 2015 was the year of endless frustration and dead-ends. I went into 2016 hoping—no, determined—to make a change. To have a better year. To grow as a person.
In fact, I’ve been dreading 2016’s close. What if odd-numbered years just aren’t my thing?, I’ll wonder sometimes nervously as 2017 looms closer. What if I’ve already blown through my successes and good luck too quickly? Am I even capable of handling heartbreak and failure that rivals in magnitude the triumph I’ve felt this year?
It all feels a little silly, really, to assume the trajectory of your life changes in accordance with the date on the calendar. After all, my original theory about why 2015 was so bad was that Alabama lost to Ohio State on New Year’s Eve and it set the tone horribly. Said theory was bolstered when we won the National Championship this year and the 12 months that ensued were my best yet. Alabama Football, I’m looking at you. 2017 is relying on you.
But in all seriousness, I think we assign a timeline to our lives to help us reset our attitudes. When the clock strikes midnight on January 1, 2017, millions of Americans (keeping this piece domestic, for simplicity’s sake) will feel they’ve been afforded a second chance. A fresh start. A new beginning. That’s pretty powerful stuff, albeit a little hokey.
The same is true for those of us who have had an incredible year. We’ll be faced with the same decision on January 1, 2017. (And don’t get me wrong—the tragedies afflicting 2016 impacted me, too, but because I experienced an immense amount of personal luck, I feel very grateful for the experiences 2016 has afforded me.)
Will we tackle it head-on, taking this fresh start as a chance to employ the lessons we’ve learned over the past 12 months to ensure the next 12 are better? Or will we repeat the same mistakes? Trip over the same obstacles? Falter in the same ways?
That's not to suggest the hardships you may or may not have encountered were any fault of your own (or preventable, even), but I firmly believe self-improvement is a powerful, accessible way of coping with what the world throws at you.
2016 made me feel invincible. So invincible, in fact, that I developed a fear of bigger opportunities. I had gotten so accustomed to things working out that I became nervous to reach higher, for fear of failing.
To nip this in the bud, I applied for a job at Google. Surefire rejection to temper the blows of future failures and a swift lesson that, “Sorry, we’re not interested at this time,” isn’t the end of the world.
I think I’m afraid of 2017 because my successes in 2016 felt a little…fraudulent. Half the time it just seemed like dumb luck or great timing that resulted in my good fortune—or the result of someone else’s help and guidance. Sometimes I fear the juju of the universe will shift in 2017 and the stars won’t align in my favor anymore. Superstitious? Yes. Unlikely? Not especially.
Whatever 2016 brought you, I hope 2017 has something better to offer. New beginnings can be powerful, if you allow them to be.
Cheers, and thanks for reading!
The fine print: