I know I’m late with my 2016 retrospective: truth is, I don’t feel like 2017 will start until January 20. I’ma be crying behind Obama leaving, singing old Guy songs: “Baby, Don’t Go.”
Beyond that, I think I’m like everyone else: my feelings on 2016 are:
I am happy to see this one go…but I’m not sure why. I’m learning a lot about perspective—the way we think things are versus the way they actually are. I’m learning that your mood—or my mood—can change how I see the world and what actions I take.
My dad told me “your perception is your reality.” What we think is is, at least to us. For some this year sucked: we had a shitty election that served to divide the country further than it already was. We watched scores of black people killed by police and the cacophony of protest about it. We also saw those same protestors, whether they were marching or rioting or taking a knee, get vilified for their protest. We saw believe things that weren’t real, or weren’t real to the rest of us. We watched our news organizations eschew truth for ratings and the confusion in our populace grow.
We heard a lot about how the economy is heading the wrong direction and isn’t getting better. Every single metric we would use to measure that says otherwise: unemployment, the DOW, household income (though wages have remained stagnant). The one metric I use is the amount of racism that made it back into the mainstream: you can tell the economy is doing better when white people can afford to be racist. Remember 2008? That Yes We Can, Hope and Change shit sure was appealing when we were stuck in 2 wars, unemployment was at 10% and rising, healthcare was bankrupting people and some 45,000 people were dying every year from a lack of insurance, wasn’t it? When baby boomers couldn’t retire because 401Ks weren’t worth shit and millennials were living at home because there weren’t any jobs AND student loans were kicking that ass, getting behind the black dude was cool. Those were the days…
Now we actually debate on what a fact is. Do you hear that shit? We question what a fact actually is. How are facts debatable? The one that pisses me off the most is the whole climate change denial. The same science that gives you iPhones and internets and high speed rail and drones and GPS and Twitter and fucking Siri gives you the “hey, you’re fucking up the ENTIRE planet” warning and people don’t believe it? How do you use science to not believe science?
Anyway, that was 2016, the year that facts and faith in one another died. We lost trust in our public institutions (like the FBI) and belief in the media—seriously, how did Facebook become a news source? We saw journalism die along with my childhood: in the last 366 days, we lost David Bowie and Prince, Muhammad Ali and Alan Rickman, Nancy Reagan and Fidel Castro, John Glenn and Gene Wilder. Grizzly Adams, Mrs. Brady and Princess Leia. Fuck.
That last one got me. I think we attach ourselves to those celebrities, those actors and writers and musicians who remind us of the best about ourselves. Who touch that part of us that let us know we’re not alone in the world. I grew up in Minnesota, I’ve seen Prince in concert (literally the BEST concert I’ve ever seen!) and a random club. My feelings were hurt when he passed because he had such a universal voice—all of us sit in the car, waiting for the Whoo Whoos to end in Purple Rain before we get out. That Super Bowl halftime show was the stuff of legends. When he died, the news hit me like I’d dropped my tacos and I was STARVING! For my brother, though, it was like he lost an arm: he was in mourning for months.
But Carrie Fisher got me. That one hurt—hurts now. Not just because I’m a Star Wars freak (I am) or because I thought Princess Leia was a boss (she was: Leia stood up to Darth Vader, watched her planet get blown up without a tear, took control of her own rescue and ended up leading the rebellion, while still having time for a scoundrel and his big ass dog). I loved Carrie Fisher because she was always unapologetically herself. For better or worse. She told you how it was when it was shitty or addicted or mentally ill. She was honest when she didn’t have to be. I loved that.
What I learned from those losses is really the responsibility of living life to the fullest. Of being present and taking advantage of every moment. After 18 months of independent consulting, I learned I wasn’t a fan of searching for work (though business development is necessary), hated the uncertainty of knowing where my next check was coming from, and wanted to be able to plan for when the Boy and the Honey Badger graduate. Early in the year, I joined a Big 4 consultancy because I wanted to add some stability to my otherwise unstable professional life. You know, on the inside, I got my London Tipton on like:
I did get into grad school though (chalk up another London Tipton moment). Like for real for real. MBA program at Temple. If I wanna go, I gotta figure out how to pay for it but HOLY SHIT, right? Grad school!
I started playing the long game—at least I thought I was.
But a few things happened over 2016 that made me question the wisdom of all of that:
First, I realized I wasn’t writing much—not here, not my novels. It was a feat of strength and exhaustion to get Come Hell or High Water out (but hey, it’s out there! You can find it here.) I’d abandoned this blog long enough that I’m confident I lost my readers, including me. I couldn’t figure out what to write next…so I didn’t. And I lost something about myself, something in myself, along the way. That had to change.
Then I made a mistake, professionally. A costly one. Actually, I made two. In planning for the long haul, I underestimated the actual cost of the short term. That leads to, in math terms, a negative. In public policy, we call it a deficit. In accounting, it’s in the red. Pick an industry, it isn’t pretty. Then, I made a better mistake, one some might call a career-limiting move. I’m still dealing with that one so…we’ll see how that goes.
And lastly, I was kinda fucking miserable. I wasn’t delivering my true self to my family, to you, to me. I was, and am, a great consultant. I’m good at what I do. But I’m also a fairly decent (ok ok I’m pretty freaking awesome!) writer with plenty to say, a father who actually likes his kids (even when they are DMFRHs), a husband who digs his wife. I’m a whole person and feeding one aspect of myself leaves the balance in entropy. Stagnant. Dying.
So in 2017, I’m looking for balance. Balance between my professional and literary endeavors. Balance between my home and work life. Between patriotism and protest. Between the gym and being a fat kid. Carrie Fisher taught me that life can be art, that writing can be a profession, that we can laugh at our pain and still be strong. That abject honesty makes us better.
That honesty thing is why I’m here now. That, and I missed you, and you KNOW you missed me.
Happy New Year!