Perspective is important. I’m always excited for the start of a new year (the start of a new anything) because there’s a chance to do things right, to take stock, and to make important changes. Armed with history and the knowledge of past mistakes, the new year starts a new season of growth and change (although, arguably, every day is a day to start fresh).
2016 brought comfort and overwhelming chaos. Four jobs, three apartments, two cities. My niece started school; my nephew started walking, and I finally abandoned my illusion that I could teach without losing my patience or my mind. Close friends became engaged, got married, and had children. I inherited a dog and a handsome, VEGETARIAN artist as life partners. The struggle!
Colleagues and cousins passed away; family and friends graduated. I gained twenty pounds and lost a few friends due to pride. And then there was Syria. The shooting death of Philando Castile. Prince. The Dakota Access Pipeline. Brexit. Trump and Pence. Ryan Lochte. Kanye.
The year was rife with struggle. Here are 16 things that weren’t horrible in 2016 (in no particular order).
16 Things That Didn’t Suck in 2016
16. A “groundbreaking” peace deal was reached in Colombia after more than 50 years of conflict. The agreement was signed by government officials and members of Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia, the FARC rebel group. FARC is one of the oldest and largest left-wing rebel groups in Colombia, and one of the world’s richest guerrilla armies. It is a branch of a Marxis-Leninist Communist party and one of the world’s richest guerrilla armies.
15. Tsai Ing-wen of the Democratic Progressive Party was sworn in as Taiwan’s first female president. President Ing-wen has spoken openly about democracy and freedom, and has called for “positive dialogue” between Taiwan and Beijing.
14. NASA’s spacecraft, Juno, completed its first flyby of Jupiter, which is the largest planet in the solar system. The purpose of the mission is to learn how Jupiter was formed and how the solar system began. It is also the first mission aimed at studying a planet’s interior structure.
13. Romania may soon appoint its first female and first Muslim Prime Minister. Romania’s largest political party recently nominated Sevil Shhaideh, from Tatar minority, Prime Minister. Pending approval from Parliament and the president, she would be both the first Muslim and the first woman to hold the position in the nation’s history.
12. President Barack Obama became the first U.S. leader in 88 years to visit Cuba, the first sitting president to visit the island since Calvin Coolidge in 1928. President Obama’s administration recently loosened sanctions to allow Americans to visit the country, as long as the trip’s purpose is educational in nature, and as long as required documentation is completed.
11. Houston native Simone Manuel, twenty year-old Olympic swimmer, became the first African-American female swimmer to win an individual Olympic gold medal when she tied for gold in the 100m freestyle. Did I mention that she was from Houston?
10. Houston native Simone Giles, nineteen year-old Olympic gymnast, is the first female gymnast to win four consecutive all-around titles at the U.S. national championships since 1974. She’s also the first woman to be the all-around world champion for three consecutive years in a row. She’s also won more championship medals than any other American woman, having won nineteen in total. Did I mention that she was from Houston?
9. For the first time in 108 years, the Chicago Cubs won the World Series! Not since the Pirates in 1979, the Cubs were the first team to come back from a 3-1 deficit and go on to win games #6 and #7 on the road.
8. Luke Cage was released on Netflix. It tells the story of a doubting hero, an African-American man with super strength who is, essentially, bulletproof. He was gifted with unbreakable skin during questionable experiments he underwent while incarcerated for crimes he did not commit. Alfre Woodard, Mahershala Ali, and Rosario Dawson co-star.
7. A new set of labor laws were introduced in May 2016 in France. Legislation requires companies with more than 50 employees to set up hours when staff are not authorized to send or respond to work emails. They have the “right to disconnect” outside of the allotted work hours, which will be set up during weekends and select evenings. The French government has reported that this intervention was necessary in order to protect its workers health and well-being.
6. India opened its first school for transgender students. The residential school will be located in the city of Kochi. Teachers are also members of the transgender community, and the school will welcome ten students, ages 25-50. The curriculum will include vocational skills and will prepare students for India’s Class 10 and 12 board exams.
5. In late December a Jewish advocacy group in Boston, Voice for Peace, led a solidarity march with and for Muslim community members. About 200 demonstrators marched to protest racial profiling of the Islamic community. Protesters held signs that read “Jews Against Islamophobia and Racism.”
4. Halima Aden, a Somali-American beauty queen and student at St. Cloud University, became the first woman to wear a burkini and hijab during the Miss Minnesota pageant. Aden was born in a refugee camp in Kenya, but moved to the United States when she was six. Aden believes that rampant Islamophobia has caused concern in her community, and it is her responsibility to speak out against it.
3. Sylvester Stallone declined Trump’s appointment as the National Endowment for the Arts chairman (A representative later claimed this appointment was never offered). Whatevs. Good for you! You’ll always be Rocky to me, champion of the underdog!
2. Hilary Clinton was the first woman ever to be nominated for the presidency by a major political party. The struggle.
1. Moonlight. Hamilton. 13th. Oh, and Taylor Swift and Calvin Harris broke up.
What did I miss? What wasn’t horrible in 2016?