Instead Of Erasing 2016 From Our Memory, Let's Embrace The Lessons It Has Taught Us

by Rachel Braun
Rachel Braun

Whether you’ve been watching the news, surfing the Web, checking Twitter or Facebook, or simply having a conversation with friends or family, I am certain you have heard that 2016 was the worst year ever. “It was a shitshow!” “The new year can’t come soon enough!” “2016 was a dumpster fire!” “I am so grateful it will be over soon.” “F$CK YOU 2016!” The list of commentary is endless.

Now, I’m not going to lie. Personally, 2016 was a pretty good year for me. I quit my job and began a new journey starting a business I am passionate about. Yes, this has brought some frustration and stress, but mostly the change has been good. I have learned so much about myself and my capabilities, and I know my growth will only continue in the new year.

In 2016, I was able to spend more time with my kids, especially the first half of the year, when I could truly cherish my last baby being at home. For the first time, I was able to have all of my holidays and weekends off, allowing me more time with my family. I trained for and completed not one, but two triathlons. And having a teenager of babysitting age has given my husband and I more time together. But on a global level, the picture was not quite as bright.

Of course, much of this stems from the shitastic 2016 election. No matter what side you were on, most people can agree that it was the most fucked-up election in U.S. history. But it doesn’t end there. In the past year, we have dealt with everything from Brexit and Zika virus to racial injustice and Aleppo. Not to mention the deaths of countless legendary actors and musicians from Gene Wilder, Alan Thicke, and Carrie Fisher to Prince, David Bowie, and most recently, George Michael. And that is just the tip of the iceberg.

It seems 2016 was a year where racism and misogyny were given a renewed voice. Whether intentional or not, many Americans turned a blind eye to bigoted, hate-filled speech, and the result was an implied acceptance. So much negativity erupted from our newsfeeds that we were forced to unfollow many of our friends, only strengthening our echo chamber of social and political views.

And the newest tagline for 2016, “What is the first rule of 2017? We don’t talk about 2016.” I’m here to tell you that this will only make things worse. As the philosopher, George Santayana once said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Instead of erasing 2016 from our memories, we should be embracing the lessons it has taught us. We should be using these lessons to fuel our goals and resolutions for the new year.

2016 has taught me…

A divided country only becomes more divided as we continue to shut out the voices of those who don’t agree with us.

So, in 2017…

I resolve to be more accepting and understanding of those with differing viewpoints. My goal for the new year is to have open dialogue, to really listen to what others are saying instead of just waiting to make my point. If we, as everyday citizens, cannot compromise, how can we expect our representatives to? And since our government does not seem capable of getting their shit together, we need to make change happen from the bottom up.

2016 has taught me…

There are so many people around the world and in my own backyard who are truly suffering. I have it pretty damn good.

So, in 2017…

My goal is to be more charitable and teach my kids to do the same. I want to be an example to my children of giving by donating my time, money, and possessions to causes that matter. One person cannot fix the world, but if everyone does something, then change can happen.

2016 has taught me…

That racism, hatred, bigotry, and misogyny still exist in this country.

So, in 2017…

I will be a voice against it, and I will teach my kids to be voices as well. I will continue to teach my girls to be strong, intelligent, and independent. I will never stop telling them they can be and do anything they choose. And I will, most of all, teach all of my children to be kind and to stand up for those who are less fortunate. Because when we bring up our children to be thoughtful and caring, when we teach them to listen, understand, and accept those with differing views and lifestyles, they will be the ones to change the world.

I know that when we rise in the face of adversity, that is when truly great things can happen. Let’s make 2016 the year we woke up, so that 2017 can be the beginning of something wonderful.