The personal and political of 2016

We spent New Year’s Eve in the Emergency Room.  Mr D has been sick and the experience was about as positive as any visit to the ER could be.  We were reassured that he’d be OK.  And he is, phew.

When talking with friends and family the past few days, nearly everyone has said the same thing. Sounds like you had a shitty end to a shitty year.  I know exactly what they mean by this and yet, as I reflect on this past year, I am having a hard time writing it off as merely “shitty”.  For me, 2016 was the year when the complicated relationship between the personal and political was driven home like never before.

On a personal level, 2016 was a special year.  No, there were no windfalls or spectacular achievements that I failed to write about here.  Nor was it all truffles and daisies. But this past year I came to really believe that the new road that my life began to take 7.5 years ago when g was born was the right one for me.  This was the year that I finally became competent at living the life that I’ve been working toward. A year of focusing on the things that are important. A year of simply living. In a year when the word identity was typically associated with the worst aspects of politics, I found that I have begun wearing my own in a way that has never quite felt so right.

If it had only been a normal year I’m convinced that I would be celebrating.  Or, at the very least, I would feel free to focus on all the little ways that I could make further improvements.  There can always be improvements – always a home to tidy, extra pounds to attend to and finances to improve.

But 2016 was not a normal year.  It was a year that shook me at the level of my core belief system.  It wasn’t just the ugly campaign season or the shocking electoral results. I am aware that for all my fears, and there are many, 4 years is pretty short in the grand scheme of things.  But I feel like I’ve been forced to reckon with the limits of my hopes for a world where individual actions carry real power, where dinner is revolutionary.  The reality is that, with the exception of a few power-hungry billionaires, our personal choices only amount to something significant when they are taken collectively. We can’t go it alone.

I’m not planning to abandon my road.  Not now when I’ve finally come to know it’s curves and bends well enough to really enjoy the scenery. But I wouldn’t want to live in isolation even if I could. And so, I’ve come to terms with the fact that I need to find ways to turn my efforts outward in 2017.

If only I could pretend that it isn’t awfully scary out there.


5 thoughts on “The personal and political of 2016

  1. My 2016 was personally good too for no groundbreaking reason – it was just solid. And then November happened and now it’s not an exaggeration to say that every day feels one step closer to a precipice.

  2. 2016 part 1 was pretty awesome. I was happier than I’ve been in a long time. I was totally buying that “I control my actions, and those little things matter” approach. Then my semester started and I got exhausted, and then the election happened and I am …upset in an all new way. Like you, I continue to believe in the power of individual choices, modeling behaviors we hope to see, looking for chances to create equity and to reach out to real people in real ways. And I recognize that it’s time to stop shirking my civic duty, and start engaging with this fucked up political system we’ve inherited, and created, if only through our passivity. And, you know, when I say our, I actually mean MY. So I’m calling my elected reps, I’m offering my services as a volunteer, I’m going to the march on washington. All of these things are 1 billion percent outside my comfort zone, so I’m proud of myself. But I’m also tormented and made terribly anxious by the futility of these actions. Will my call to my reps stop fracking in Ohio state parks? No! I wish I had more experience with and exposure to whatever wisdom allows people to accept the reality of their smallness without feeling despair… So…yeah.

    1. I suspect that you greatly underestimate the impact that you have through your work, particularly your platform and your relationships with students.
      I feel very inspired right now to know a lot of savvy people who are organizing to do real work but I tend to go round in circles until I come back to the voters. I feel very strongly that one of the most important things we can do is to reach out and understand so that we can propose alternate solutions. I’m referring to the long, painful work of communicating and educating that offers basically nothing in terms of instant gratification.

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