It’s approaching the end of the year, and while personally this year has been a pretty good one in terms of personal growth and friendships and experiences, it has been a shit show in every other aspect.
2016 has been an awful year for countless reasons, whether on a macro or micro scale. Trump, Brexit, terrorism, Aleppo, Nice, shootings, plane crashes, and the loss of countless icons integral to popular culture; Alan Rickman, Prince, George Michael, Carrie Fisher, David Bowie, Gene Wilder, Muhammad Ali and others. It is hard to stay positive when every day the news reports another terrorist attack, another death, another political faux pas. It is hard to find the desire to stay aware and engaged in the world and to have faith in our ability to bounce back when knocked down. This is something I understand all too well.
I spent a night of anxiety awake during the counting of the Brexit referendum votes in June of this year, as the world watched the United Kingdom divide into two contrasting camps. I remember watching the results be confirmed with horror and I felt devastated. I admittedly went into a bit of a slump, terrified for the future and terrified of the toxic, xenophobic, regressive and often archaic attitudes I could see circulating and infiltrating the media I was consuming. I found it hard to separate myself from a feeling of constant dread and a “what’s the point” attitude.
Each sad, frustrating or angering event of this year which has reached my ears has knocked me back and made me scared for the future and feel insecure in the here and now, and I know that I’m not the only person who feels like this. People are hurting and grieving, and this year has left people feeling flat, demotivated, disengaged and more. I particularly see this on social media, with countless younger people like myself expressing their feelings to a platform they expect to be understood on.
Instead however, I have seen something rather troubling. I have seen numerous tweets telling people they ought not to complain about the events of the year. I have seen several which say that as long as you are still alive you shouldn’t complain. I have seen others which say that there have been worse years and at least x, y and z haven’t happened. I have even seen ones which are telling people to stop complaining and that we should be grateful it isn’t 2001 and we haven’t had to suffer an attack like 9/11, or that at least it isn’t 1942 and we aren’t engaged in a world war. I’ve seen tweets telling people to man up, and that if we are not happy with the events of the year we should try and change them in 2017. This is potentially the most toxic and belittling and patronising message that any person could circulate. To me anyway.
My issues with these notions are vast. Telling somebody that they shouldn’t feel sad is not going to make them be happy. Telling somebody that the thing they are distressed about isn’t as bad as something else does nothing other than suggest their feelings are not valid. Yes, I agree that instead of moping and constantly complaining we should try and unite and be strong and progress, however people are allowed to feel and to grieve for what is lost or to feel fear for the future, and they should be able to do so without being attacked or told to man up.
Furthermore, the acknowledgement of this year as having been a bad one is not only true, but it does not mean that the past has been forgotten. If anything, it makes the state of the world even harder to bear, as the human race’s self destructive nature has carried through the years and the world has not changed, but merely continues to get even more messed up by the minute, showing we have not learned from past mistakes. But by saying that 2016 was a bit shit, I doubt anyone is actively trying to say it was worse than any other period of history. When I complain about the events of the year I am by no means saying I think my struggles, or the world’s struggles are the only things that matter. I am not forgetting that there have been dark times throughout history. I am not forgetting that people have hurt before, politicians have fucked up before, terrorist attacks have happened before, celebrities have died before. No. I am simply trying to let my frustration out so I can move on.
Being angry and upset by the events of 2016 is completely acceptable. I do not think any person should be made to feel whiney or ungrateful for their life for simply stating how they feel about a certain circumstance. In my eyes expressing emotion and being informed and invested in the events of the world is so important and so valuable, as it shows you care. People who act indifferent or think it is not their duty to be knowledgeable or seem to have a lack of empathy are the ones in the wrong.
I remember logging onto my Facebook account after the Brexit referendum, and seeing screeds of writing from different Facebook friends, different celebrities, different figures expressing their views and their upset and their ideas. While this was a hard thing to face, it also made me incredibly hopeful. So many people felt so passionately and so deeply about the result, and so many were voicing these views and restoring my faith in humanity, and in my generation and what we can do in the future.
While hope is sometimes hard to access and hard to push yourself to feel, it is extremely important. But while I believe that to be true, I also believe everyone has the right to express their emotions if it helps them to move on. Instead of belittling each other’s struggles, we should be trying to elevate each other and comfort each other when we need it most. And above all, we should stay educated and informed and passionate.
And lastly, we should be telling 2016 to fuck off.