We all acknowledge 2016 has been a flaming turd in many ways for many people. While I want to acknowledge it hasn’t been all bad,* it has been pretty difficult for most of us and we’ve been ready to push it over a cliff for a while now.
* See: The Knowles sisters killed it with Lemonade and A Seat At The Table; Pandas dropped off the endangered list; Pokemon Go made it possible for neurodivergent kids and adults to socialize a bit easier; and Teen Vogue beat out all the adult magazines for high quality socially conscious engagement, and then offered $5 a year subscriptions to make themselves more accessible.
But in the spirit of remembering that time is arbitrary and that it is people, us, who make things better going forward, I offer this list of things that should be left in 2016 so we can, collectively and individually, move forward:
- “Not All…” anything. It really does go without saying. Whether it’s “Not ALL white people…” or “Not all heterosexuals…” we already know it’s not all. What we also know is, if you feel compelled to point it out, you clearly need to go work on the issue in yourself because yes, yes, we do mean you.
- Giving advice that wasn’t sought (and is rarely nuanced or knowledgeable.) So, when our friend posts their shop link, don’t advise them they should be on Etsy. When our sister-in-law posts about some new-and-possibly-annoying behavior our nephew has started, don’t tell her how to fix it. When someone posts about their chronic pain, don’t ask them if they’ve cut sugar/gluten/meat yet. When our friend posts that they are job hunting and are actually looking for some support in the form of who can get them inside for an actual interview, if we can’t do that, stay quiet or connect them with someone who can. When our friend shares their fundraiser and their personal story of needing financial support, don’t ask them why they don’t “just go back to school” and don’t tell them they need to get their life together.
- Responding to legitimate critique by pointing out that we’re oppressed too. If we’re being told that something we’re saying/doing is ableist, pointing out that our cousin has xyz disability and we were teased as a child for hanging out with him is not the answer. If someone points out some racism or anti-Blackness in the way we’re engaging an issue, responding that we are gay doesn’t magically cover the racism.
- Thinking we have the answers (closely correlated to “Talking about things we don’t really know jack about.”) We don’t, clearly, or we wouldn’t be in this shit-boat. We are working on answers, trying out some solutions, and we can creatively get out of this mess. But it’s going to take work, and that includes admitting that we really don’t know what we’re doing all the time.
- To that same end, refusing to ask good questions. Let’s give up the ego-trip that leads us to jump in with our thoughts without fully listening and without taking the time to clarify what we think we’re hearing. Let’s ask our own selves what our motivations really are, and how we can do better. Let’s ask others to explain their ideas, and let’s actually listen to them — be willing to hear their answers and learn from them, and support them when they are good ideas.
- Supporting, excusing, and elevating toxic people. From celebrities like Lena Dunham to our cousin who keeps telling us they “just don’t agree with [our] lifestyle” — drop them all. Make them irrelevant in 2017. Support the people who are doing things we believe in and enjoy, and let’s surround ourselves with the people who support us.
- Trying to get something for nothing. Offer something of ourselves before/when asking for something, especially from people more marginalized than ourselves. Respect people’s time, energy, skills, labor, and brilliance. Give credit where it is due, and be willing to pay properly/fairly for what we take. This should be practiced personally and professionally.
- Being overwhelmed with bitterness and apathy. Yes, those are valid feelings to have. Life is rough. But we can’t fix things or go on if we wallow in these feelings. If you have legitimate mental health illnesses or neurodivergence that impacts this, do what you can to address those issues so they aren’t overwhelming you. I can’t tell you what that looks like, because it looks different for all of us, even when we have the same illnesses. But seek out what might help you and know that you deserve it! And for those who don’t have a mental illness/neurodivergence reason for feeling that way, please just stop wallowing, and instead help provide support to those who are struggling.
- Refusing love. Whether it is self love or the love of another, let’s open ourselves to love and support from unexpected places. Let’s cultivate it. We are ALL worthy of it. So, in 2017, “let’s get the shit kicked out of us by love.”