Why you might want to stop calling 2016 “A Bad Year”.

You know you’ve heard it, or read it, or maybe you’ve even said it. You know, the general sentiment of the masses that 2016 was, in fact, a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad year. 

I get it. A lot of tough things happened this year. Political things that will impact the world we live in. Trump. Brexit. Not Hilary (#ImWithHer). Syria. Aleppo. Zika. [more] Terrorism. Refugee crises. Pipelines… I could go on, but it’s too dismal.

We lost a lot of brilliant and talented people this year: David Bowie. Prince. Muhammad Ali. Snape (I mean Alan Rickman). Carrie Fisher (I mean Princess Leia). Her mother, Debbie Reynolds, right after Leia passed.

They are icons, really. And we don’t like to lose our icons, for a myriad of reasons (apart from the fact that it’s hard to lose people and we are saddened by loss), but no less for the fact that we look up to these people at the best of times, and especially in the difficult times. They can be like a lighthouse in the dark, and they are icons of our generation. They are familiar and that is reassuring.

And that’s just some of the stuff that happened in the world at large. Not to mention the endless hardships experienced by smaller groups, families and individuals all over the globe, any given day. 

I mean, 2016, you were an arsehole. John Oliver even made the below video tribute to your demise. People wrote songs telling you off. So obviously, 2016 was a wash.

But was 2016 the worst year? History would state otherwise. How about 1348, when the Black Death killed over one third of Europe’s population? That was pretty rough, even if you were of the lucky few to survive it. The horror. The fear. The loss of loved ones. The smell.

But here’s the thing: Being mad at the year gets you off the hook. 2016 was bad to you. You had nothing to do with it. 

I understand. A lot of stuff happened that felt out of your (my? our?) control. So when you blame the year 2016, you get to be a victim. To an anthropomorphized body of time, made up by a centuries-old, human-made calendar. Yup. 2016 screwed you over. Which is obviously true, since that’s how you feel: victimized (see below). 

There’s nothing wrong with being a victim. I mean, I get it: life happens, and we cannot have 100 percent responsibility for circumstances outside our locus of control (the idea that power over events is either internalized by us, or externalized by outside forces).

The problem with empowering a victim mindset (which is what we’re doing when we blame external forces, or entire years, for that matter, for a bad day/year/life), is that it DISEMPOWERS us. Being a victim is, by its definition, a crappy way to be: harmed, suffering, trapped, et cetera. Victims are hapless, helpless and hurt. 

Being a victim to the current or previous year is not a great way to expect to be anything different than a victim to the coming one, though, since we are creatures of habit.

Why jump so eagerly into a new year, when, quite frankly, we have a history of writing off the year before as a bad hand, by December, if not sooner?

It’s like those people who hate their jobs, complaining their way through their career to retirement, when they're certain they’ll finally get to be happy? I know you know people who are living this way.

Call me crazy, but I believe that we tend to get good at what we practice. i.e. When you do a thing, over and over, you get better at doing that thing. So, by that generally accepted logic, then, if we practice complaining and being a victim to our circumstances, choices, calendars, et cetera, for 35 years (or 365 days), chances are pretty good we’ll continue to find reasons to be unhappy later.

When you practice being a victim, you get good at being a victim, not at making choices and taking actions that change your life.

Being a victim isn't fun, but it is familiar. It isn't easy, but it seems easier than change. It seems better to wash our hands of 2016, call the whole thing a bad egg, write it off and look forward eagerly to the next year, which has to be better. But why do you think the next year will be better? Because you can’t have two bad years in a row? Because science? According to whose rules?

I mean, I love the optimism, but come on. If you want to have a good year, you’re going to need to start deciding that you are having a good day/year/life. We need to practice training our eyes and our hearts (and our minds and our mouths) to shine the light, not to snuff it out. Maybe not all of it will be awesome (that’s just unrealistic), but hopefully, if you’re looking for good, you’ll find more of the good stuff.

After all, some people had a really great year: Babies were born. People fell in love. People got married. People reconnected with long-lost friends and family. People were overcome by the beauty of this world. Someone stood up on a surfboard for the first time (an amazing feeling). 

So let’s just work on being grateful when and where we can. It’s completely okay to have a bad day. For real. Bad times will happen. We are more resilient in those trying times, though, when we have trained ourselves to find the good, to seek out and be love, and to find the beautiful in the every day, and be grateful for any day we get.