What a year for a new year, right?
At this point it’s become a cliché, but that’s because, for the most part, 2016 really did suck.
There was the long, contentious, ugly, controversial election, which further divided an already highly partisan country, raised serious questions about Russian interference, and may have set us on a direction to a nuclear arms race, high anxiety, and worse. Included in this was all the fake news, the ignorance of facts and reality, and the many, many ridiculous twists and turns that were often unbelievable.
There was all that death. It hurt time and again to lose legends and those some of us grew up with, from music icons like Prince, David Bowie, George Michael, Sharon Jones, and Glen Frey; to TV and movie favorites like Florence Henderson, Gene Wilder, Garry Marshall, Carrie Fisher, Debbie Reynolds, and Alan Thicke; to history-makers like Muhammad Ali, Elie Wiesel, and John Glenn. Can’t forget Harambe, of course. Or Jim Delligatti, the creator of the Big Mac. And that’s not even counting friends who’ve lost family members and other loved ones. Perhaps it’s appropriate, then, that at the end of December, we also lost Robert Leo Hulseman, the inventor of the Red Solo Cup.
There was tragedy in Aleppo, Orlando, Nice, and Dallas — and elsewhere — a seemingly never-ending series of terrorist attacks, hate crimes, natural disasters, and political injustices.
Seriously, it seemed like every day, people were coming together to protest or collectively grieve, or simply react. It was enough to make you violently angry or just plain numb, depending on the day.
What an emotional roller coaster.
At times, it all got a bit overwhelming and hard to deal with. And on many occasions, I didn’t deal. With anything. I tuned it out. Couldn’t deal. Didn’t want to. Or just didn’t care anymore. And that included my attitude toward work. And my increasing comfort with being alone. And ignoring my physical and mental health. Really, I didn’t want to deal with anything that was hard or uncomfortable, or that made me annoyed or sad. There was too much of it, and it all seemed beyond my control. And that just made me more frustrated.
Yes, 2016 really did suck.
Remembering the Good Times
But here’s the thing: Yes, this year took a lot of my favorite singers and actors and lots of other innocent people. It left me dissatisfied with the world and with myself. But it wasn’t entirely a bad year.
There were plenty of good days, and a lot of good things that happened around the world and close to home.
For example, I’d rather remember that …
2016 was a year in which I traveled to Chicago three times (on the company dime). I got to see friends and experience sights I’d never seen before, such as the 606, Cindy’s, and the inside of the Art Institute of Chicago. And, I even took in a game at Wrigley Field, just a few short months before the Cubs won the World Series.
2016 was a year in which I thought I was talking to a Grateful Dead fan in an airport bar, and it turned out to be the band’s drummer, Bill Kreutzmann. (Whoops!)
2016 was a year in which I also traveled to Florida three times. One of those times was to celebrate my dad’s 70th birthday, a significant milestone given his recent health challenges.
2016 was a year in which I saw some good live music, from Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band to One Republic to Flight of the Conchords to the Record Company to the Wild Feathers. (And Springsteen published his memoir too — lending his own voice to the audiobook version!)
2016 was a year in which I celebrated my 20th college reunion and actually enjoyed the experience of attending the festivities.
2016 was a year in which I got to go to the golf U.S. Open near Pittsburgh.
2016 was a year in which I was interviewed for a podcast, was recognized on Community Manager Appreciation Day, served as the special guest for a Twitter chat, and published one of my all-time most popular blog posts.
2016 was a year in which I learned what it was like to work for one of the world’s largest corporations. (Okay, so maybe that wasn’t entirely a good thing, but it’s certainly good for my résumé.)
2016 was a year in which Panera Bread started offering warm, fresh-from-the-oven chocolate chip cookies, in addition to their pre-packaged offerings, and I developed a minor addiction to Butter Cake.
2016 was a year in which movies delivered distinct pleasures, from the bro-ing out in Richard Linklater’s latest to a full-on production number in the midst of Los Angeles traffic.
2016 was a year in which there were a lot of babies born. (Circle of life!)
2016 was a year in which the national unemployment rate dropped to its lowest level since 2007.
2016 was a year in which the world caught Olympic Fever once again, and the U.S. dominated the competition.
2016 was a year in which the giddy happiness of a woman in a Chewbacca mask made everyone smile.
2016 was a year in which I just couldn’t get enough of the Hamilton cast album or Justin Timberlake and Bruno Mars’ infectious pop hits (among other tunes). Surely, a year with “Can’t Stop the Feeling!” (yes, the exclamation point is in the official title) and “24K Magic” can’t be all bad … can it?
Taking Better Care of Myself
When I look back on 2016, I want to remember those happy memories. And I think, as we move forward into a new year in which we could see more death, more tragedy, and more negativity, it’s going to be even more important for people like me to focus on the positive, lest we get sucked into infinite sadness and let those forces win.
But that’s not all. If there’s one important lesson I’ve learned this year (again), it’s that I do have to deal with the important things — particularly, my own health and happiness. So in 2017, I’m going to take some steps to improve my overall well-being.
I know I’ve said before that I want to focus on my physical and/or mental health, but I’m 42 now and I really do need to start taking better care of myself. That means eating better (or less bad, for starters), getting checked out, deciding what I want to do next professionally, and dealing with some of the loaded emotional issues that have held me back in recent years and have kept me from developing and maintaining serious, long-term personal relationships. Likely, that’ll mean seeking professional help. After coming to the hard realization that I really do need it, I think I’m actually ready to pursue it.
Or at least, I hope I am. Because I need to be. And I actually want to get better. (The “want” is the important part.)
In addition, I’ve decided to bring back my Happiness Project — a year-long diary-like blog post in which I document one thing every day that makes me smile. I did this in 2015, and it proved quite effective: Even on days I was frustrated, sad, angry, or generally unhappy, there was always at least one thing that was good — no matter how small. It’s important to have those reminders of things that make us happy, especially when everything around us seems to be such a bummer.
Thankfully, I already know a few things that will be mentioned, such as my upcoming trip to Austin, Texas; seeing Dear Evan Hansen on Broadway and Coldplay live in concert; my sister’s 40th birthday and a good friend’s daughter’s bat mitzvah; and new music from the likes of John Mayer, the Killers, and the Lone Bellow. It’s nice to begin a year already having good things to look forward to.
I’m hopeful that a year from now, I’ll have lost some weight, will be in better physical shape, and will also be in a better mental state. And that by working on myself, 2017 will be a better year than 2016 was.
But the only way that’s going to happen is if I stop being so lazy and complacent, and actually make it happen.
A Clean Slate
This past year had its bad times and good times, but I don’t want to repeat a year like this again — personally or otherwise.
I’m eager to start 2017 with a clean slate of sorts, and to begin down the road toward a healthier, happier me. I know it’s kind of a ridiculous thing to wake up on January 1 and all of a sudden flip a switch and expect to make radical changes. Why didn’t I just start sooner? Actually, the fact that I’ve already come to these realizations shows I did start sooner, and am not just making arbitrary new year’s resolutions for the sake of having goals. I also know myself, and know change is not going to happen right away — or easily. It’s a process, after all.
So I’m excited 2016 is over, and I say bring on the next 12 months. Hopefully they’ll be better for all of us.