So, a lot of people are blowing off steam about 2016 right now. “This is the worst year ever–2016 can kiss my ass!”
“Damn you, 2016, did you have to take Alan Rickman, Prince, David Bowie AND Carrie Fisher?” Or more seriously, there are deep fears about the state of world politics, the environment, and all sorts of stuff.
People are expressing the hard times they’ve had. The collective agreement that 2016 has been a harsh and unforgiving piece of crap seems to make us all feel a little better about it.
We’ve all had a rough 2016. But at least, if we’re all talking about it, we know we’re not alone.
Of course, people can’t get real about their emotions without backlash, but I was surprised to see it coming so strongly from the “online entrepreneurship/personal development” social circle that I’m involved in.
Folks seem to be on a mission to quell the “fuck you 2016” sentiment in the name of positivity.
“It ‘s just a year,” they argue. “It doesn’t have any more power than any other year. Your mindset is the problem. If you expect 2016 to suck, it will suck. If you think about all the ways 2016 sucked, you just attract more suckage. Besides! It wasn’t all bad! Good things happened to you in 2016! Focus on those! Stop being such an ungrateful whiney-ass!”
Okay. I haven’t literally heard anyone say “stop being such an ungrateful whiney-ass!” but some of the things I have heard are that anyone who is complaining about 2016 is “whining” “ungrateful” or just not thinking positively enough about the situation.
It’s possible to express pain and still be “positive.” It’s possible to grieve, be angry, feel overwhelmed, and still enjoy the good moments. It’s possible to express sorrow and still be grateful for lessons learned, if there were any. These things aren’t mutually exclusive.
Just because something could have been worse or more difficult, that doesn’t mean we should pretend it was roses or stuff our honest emotions in the name of being more positive or “woo.” Just because it could have been worse doesn’t mean I want to go through it again, and that’s all most people are saying when they talk about 2016 as a rough year.
You also don’t get to dismiss someone’s grief and frustration by reminding them of something “worse” that happened. You’re not the fucking thought police and you don’t get to decide which events are “important” enough to be upset over.
Try responding with compassion rather than blame and judgment.
I’m not even going to address all the cultural reasons that people might be struggling in 2016. This article does a better job of it than I could, and frankly, if you don’t know these things, we’re not on the same wavelength.
I’ll just stick to my personal life over the last 12 months.
I gave my business everything I had in 2016, and I succeeded in all of my goals for it. In the beginning of the year I was eating at food pantries and trading cooking lessons for meals so that I could invest in my business infrastructure. Then I built and launched my business while experiencing daily panic attacks. Then I started attracting and serving clients. For a large portion of the year, I was working with clients while gravely ill and while my legs were so badly swollen that I literally couldn’t move or go to the bathroom without help.
This year saw several medical crises, one that almost killed me, an accident that left my brother with third degree burns over large portions of his body, and my grandfather’s Alzheimer’s has deteriorated to the point that he is no longer able to care for himself. These things have caused a deep financial and emotional strain.
I have every right to express my feelings that 2016 was a difficult year (aka ” it sucked.”) I am neither “whining” nor “ungrateful.”
It’s just a year!
Yes, it is. And you’re right, years are arbitrary divisions of time, but they’re divisions that we all share, from a cultural perspective.
All years are not the same. A rudimentary examination of history or basic high school level economics will demonstrate that there’s an ebb and flow in how cultures experience the world, some years are worse than others, and that people tend to express collective frustration and pain when things are going wrong at a cultural level. The only thing different about 2016 is that we have the internet, so more people can communicate and express the collective opinion that 2016 sucked. It’s not a new phenomenon for people to do this—it’s new that the emotions are being expressed as text rather than over the dinner table or the office. If you think the “collective hatred” for 2016 is odd, you should listen to my grandparents talk about 1929.
Individuals also have good and bad years.
If I say to you, “this year has been difficult for me,” but you had a reasonably good year, both of our experiences are valid. If you respond to my pain with an air of haughty dismissiveness—“2016 was fine, stop whining!”—or a flippant remark about how the problem is my attitude, expectations, mindset, etc, you’re not doing me any favors. You’re not providing perspective, tough love, or a positive element that I haven’t considered. You’re just telling me that my pain makes you uncomfortable and you’d like me better if I shut up about it.
When I tell you that 2016 sucked, I’m not saying “every second of the last 365 days was horrible and no good things happened.” Nor am I being unreasonably negative. I’m making a broad statement about my experience of 2016 as a whole, and I’m telling you that large portions of the year were painfully unpleasant, difficult, and frightening.
Yes, there were good moments. Yes I learned and grew. Yes, I survived and succeeded.
The process was grueling, brutal, and left me stripped to my core. My mindset/attitude and perspective are why I’m still fucking here. They’re why I haven’t given up and crawled off into a corner to numb myself and die. They’re why I’m able to see the things I’ve learned this year and use them to both better myself and help others. I don’t need a mindset adjustment.
If the good moments outweighed the horrible, terrifying ones, I would be saying “this was a good year.” I’m not. Because the only experience that comes close to being a rival for 2016 was the year that I was homeless. Saying that doesn’t negate the things I learned or the good memories. It doesn’t make me any less successful. It’s simply honest.
You have no idea what another person might be going through when they say “2016 sucked.” You have no idea what that person has been through in the past. A loss or problem that seems trivial to you could be the tipping point in another person’s precarious balance as they struggle to cope with problems you’ve never experienced.
People who are suffering don’t need to be chided and mocked or told to look at things from a different perspective. They need those around them to hold space and allow them to be and feel whatever they really feel, without such harsh judgment. It doesn’t hurt you in any way to respond with compassion—or at least to keep your mouth shut if you can’t manage empathy for fellow humans.
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