Ugh, worst year ever…Now what?

So, you feel like you have had the worst year on record. Many iconic artists and actors were lost, and the year was highlighted by politically charged events both shocking and disappointing for many, like the election of Donald Trump. The weight of it all feels crushing for many, and to think, it all happened in just one calendar year.

Every January feels like a triumphant way to hit reset, but this time, the need to leave the year behind felt particularly palpable. In tending to the wounds caused by events of the past year, the desperation to cross the 2016 finish line was felt everywhere, from holiday dinner tables to Twitter timelines. 2017 has a lot to bear in 2016’s wake—but time goes on, and here we are, having made it into the next year successfully.

Looking back on a year and surrendering to the idea that it was the overall worst, is both understandable and unfair.

It is easy to blame a year for the sadness that was caused and to hope for the best for the year to come. It is also just as easy to say that there have been worse years in the past, and to discredit those who are hurting. It’s a fine line to balance. Overall, 2016 is being regarded as a concrete entity and blamed for everything that has happened, which is ultimately misguided. Seeking optimism in times that feel bleak diminishes the grieving process, but the negativity that comes with categorizing 2016 as wholly horrible can be unhelpful in the grand scheme of things.

The disdain felt for 2016 seems to be strongest among Millennials. There are highs and lows every year, but I believe the lows this year were felt particularly worse among the young people who engaged more actively with social and cultural politics. A liberal-leaning campus like the University of Toronto allows political discussions to saturate our spaces, so that the collective grieving process becomes a part of our daily experience. Outside of educational institutions, social media has provided platforms for Millennials to openly discuss issues arising in society. And, young voices, particularly on Twitter, have been able to enact change; we have used these social media platforms to talk about the news and issues of the moment. As a result of political discussions and periodic grieving, social media is also where the “2016 is the absolute worst” discourse began.

Our perspective on the world as a young generation is short; this is the beginning, in the grand scheme of things, of our interest in the political sphere. The events of this year may have cut deeper for us in particular, because these traumatic political events are affecting our adult lives for the first time. The important takeaway from the collective bemoaning of 2016 is that Millennials care about what is happening, enough to feel jaded. This active engagement shows our generation’s intent to discuss issues that have arisen this year, from ongoing gun violence to the normalization of white nationalists.

The berating of 2016 became a joke, in itself, as the year wore on. The New York TimesThe Telegraph and Slate have put in extensive research into whether 2016 was, in fact, the worst year on record. Each publication looked at other years in the past that could’ve been comparatively worse, like in 1348 when the Black Death was rampaging through the world, or 1943, when World War II was at its height. Pain has existed in the past, and while those other years were all awful for humanity, the stinging effects of 2016 are here and now. It’s understandable to feel upset by the losses, great and small, from the past year, but that is not enough to warrant give up trying to create change.

The coping mechanism of tossing aside the pain of recent events into the catch-all of “2016 sucked, let’s move on,” forgets that we have to do something about what has happened. It was people, not the temporal construct of a year, that caused the more controversial and upsetting moments of 2016. Ultimately, allowing the measure of time to become a parody in and of itself derails the conversation from where to go from here. 2017 isn’t the sudden stop of what has happened in the world politically, socially, and culturally—we have to continue to push onwards and upwards against what is concerning.

This is a time to be tender with one another and to help each other out. Question the news and information that you are given, listen to people of colour and those in the LGBTQ+ community about their concerns going forward, and stand up for what you believe to be right and true. If 2016 was about realizing things, 2017 is about doing things. Take the fire that has been lit under our collective asses and make a difference where you can. There is much to do in the coming year, and every year following, but that’s the thing; time keeps moving, and so do we.