It is impossible to avoid the recent slew of Internet memes and articles about 2016 and its unofficial designation as the ‘worst year ever.’ Twitter is atwitter with jokes and complaints about the past twelve months and desperate pleas for a swift end to the year that John Oliver says “has been one calamity after another.”
If we listen to these critics it seems that this year’s degeneracy has perpetually disillusioned us. Yet years always feel grueling in review. The world is a harsh place and humanity often thrives in dark space. We have limited collective recollections and research proves that we are five times more likely to remember negatives than positives. Our society’s widely accepted social media conventions further embolden us to emphasize and perseverate on undesirable happenings.
Still, 2016 was a bit of a bitch— a seemingly unending barrage of horrifying, jaw-dropping, sad and almost unbelievable news alerts. In 2016 we lived the loss of David Bowie, Prince, Muhammed Ali, Leonard Cohen and Alan Rickman. We saw countless acts of global and national terrorism. Brexit happened. Zika spread. Police shot and were shot. The North Pole reached record hot temperatures. American race relations continue to deteriorate as humans around the globe suffer from gross social and humanitarian injustices. Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump ran for United States President in a peculiar, appalling and terrible election. Pokémon Go was invented.
But at midnight on this New Year’s Eve, nothing will change. Our hope that the world will somehow be better, brighter and kinder after a glamorous countdown is misdirected and illogical. The world remains constant, uninterrupted and relentless. Ostensibly a new calendar year represents an opportunity for psychological catharsis, a metaphorical new beginning resulting in tangible change. Yet if we learned anything from 2016 it is that existing in our current world has done nothing but make us feel hopeless, alienated and fearful. We are only figuratively connected to one another and the world at large; although social media exposes us to the boundless and unrestricted ills of society, it gives us absolutely no power to initiate or engage in change.
If our world is to have any hope, if 2017 is not to be the next ‘worst year ever,’ we must find a way to live more authentically. We must learn to feel grateful for what we already have instead of lamenting what we lack. We must be humble. We must be kind to ourselves and to others. We must learn to be vulnerable, to open our hearts to the varying degrees of our collective global humanity. We must learn to sit comfortably with the world and its woe without adding our anger, our ignorance, our fear and our hate. We must stop tossing our grievances into the vortex of cyberspace and expecting it to make a difference. We must be more genuine, more involved, and more engaged with ourselves, our neighbors, our friends and unsuspecting strangers.
I fare thee well, 2016. I’m off to plant a weeping willow. Hopefully in the years to come it will grow, grow, grow.