Ahhh, 2016. Has there ever been a year in our lifetime that has been filled with such clusterfuckery?
It’s normal, I guess, to be contemplative and reflective on New Year’s Eve about the year that was. I think back on the optimism I felt this time last year. Justin Trudeau had just been elected in Canada, ushering in a promised era of “sunny days” ahead. We were riding a wave of goodwill and compassion. The weather was perfect. And I ushered in the year by watching the Habs win the Winter Classic. It felt like it would be a fantastic year.
But then… well, we all know what happened next.
From Trump to Brexit, from Ankara to Aleppo, from Putin to Erdogan to Duterte, it’s been a year of demagoguery and populism. A year of racism and hatred. A year of terror, turmoil, and the very real sense that the world is on the brink of something truly awful.
It was a year of many losses. David Bowie. Alan Rickman. Prince. Florence Henderson. John Glenn. Leonard Cohen. Greg Lake. Sharon Jones. Gene Wilder. Garry Marshall. Muhammad Ali. Patty Duke. René Angélil. Harper Lee. Glenn Frey. Alan Thicke. George Michael. Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds. Just to name a few.
It seems like most people around me would agree with John Oliver: “Fuck you, 2016!” Nobody seems particularly sad to close the book on this year and turn the page.
The end of an era?
But here’s the thing: Will 2017 really be better? I mean, how could it possibly?
With the countdown to Trump’s inauguration ticking away by the moment, it seems that the US is in for a rough ride. Women, minorities, the environment, science, compassion, human rights and democracy are all highly at risk. Meanwhile, Trump’s off-the-cuff foreign policy-by-tweet risks launching the entire planet into World War 3.
I fear that, as difficult a year as it’s been, 2016 might go down in history as the last year of a golden age. Will future generations look back on this as the last year before everything went to shit?
Good riddance, 2016
So this New Year’s Eve, I wonder: Why are we so anxious to leap out of the frying pan and into the fire?
Maybe we should be holding onto these moments as hard as we can. Maybe we should think about all the privileges and good things we still have. After all, we will probably need to fight like hell to defend them from the onslaught to come.
Personally, I feel lucky. Despite the year that was, I got to visit four new countries in 2016. I sampled fine wine, beer and chocolate. I saw Mount Everest, the Hagia Sophia, the Taj Mahal. I danced (okay, tried to dance) salsa in Cuba. I’ve been tremendously fortunate to have set foot in over 50 countries in my lifetime and to have seen and experienced so much of this amazing, beautiful, incredible planet of ours. I plan to keep on travelling as much as I can for as long as I can… before it’s too late.
I have family and friends who I love, a good job, a roof over my head, and the privilege of being in a position where I have the ability and resources to help others. I even have a new backup pair of glasses.
I don’t know what 2017 will bring. But these are the things I’m going to hold onto, come what may.
So, in that spirit, let’s wish 2016 a Billie Joe Armstrong-style Good Riddance: “I hope you had the time of your life.”