You Want It Darker - An Ode to 2016

 
   Ringing in the new year in my "Fuck 2016" glasses.

Ringing in the new year in my "Fuck 2016" glasses.

 

In many ways, 2016 was a year of grieving. While there was much to be thankful for over the course of the year, it often felt overshadowed by an ever-present sense of loss. From the moment David Bowie's death was announced on January 10, it was clear that this was a year when things were going to change, perhaps not for the better. Coupled with an exhausting, endless election cycle, we knew we were in for a long ride.

For me, the most personal losses came towards the end of the year. While I was certainly saddened by the passing of so many icons and visionaries and constantly depressed by the global tragedies that played out in the news, the deepest cut was a double blow that fateful first week in November - the election of Donald Trump followed immediately by the death of Leonard Cohen. Cohen, whose work I had always been peripherally aware of (at the very least, every person who grew up watching Shrek is familiar with John Cale's cover of "Hallelujah"), officially landed on my radar in my freshman year of college, when a musician I admired published a blog post listing his most influential songwriters and three Leonard Cohen songs made the list. And so began a years-long love affair with the raspy voice and hauntingly poetic lyrics that made Leonard Cohen's music so iconic, his words and melodies adding meaning to my life and helping me navigate the highs and lows of every year, every dream, every relationship's beginning and end. While I had been steeling myself for his death for a while, to have it come mere days after watching our country elect a dangerous bigot as president felt like an especially cruel twist of fate. After all, if there was ever a time when Leonard's wisdom and dark humor would be needed, surely it would be during a Trump administration. I listened to "Democracy" on repeat for days and tried to convince myself to believe in the good that he had seen in America, but it was hard to find. 

 
   A more innocent era: "Beautiful Losers" is the title of a Leonard Cohen novel, and 20 year old Anna had just seen him in concert for the first time. 

A more innocent era: "Beautiful Losers" is the title of a Leonard Cohen novel, and 20 year old Anna had just seen him in concert for the first time. 

 

After that, I was certain that 2016 had done its worst, but the hits kept on coming, and when the unexpected death of beloved Space Princess, fearsome general, and all-around badass Carrie Fisher was announced, I was sent reeling once again. Here was a woman who had been a role model for so many, both for her on-screen bravery and her real-life refusal to bow to the taboos surrounding addiction and mental illness. For me, as for so many other young girls, Princess Leia was the first woman I saw in film who stood up for herself and fought back, who was shamelessly witty and sarcastic, and who was allowed to be both beautiful and tough. I loved her from the minute I first encountered her. As I grew older and faced down my own struggles with my mental health, learning that the woman behind the iconic princess spoke openly about her experiences living with bipolar disorder only made me love her more. The day she died, I lay on the floor of my bedroom and cried until I had no more tears left to shed. 

Looking back, much of this year was about exposing the flaws in our worldview. Our idols were revealed to be mere mortals (and some of them less than wonderful human beings); our country, despite our hopes for the contrary, is still full of racists, misogynists, homophobes, xenophobes, transphobes, and other bigots; even our own selves were stripped bare. This year taught me how much further I have to go to achieve half of what I set out to do and how easily I can give into bad habits and let things slide - posting blog posts, attending auditions, promoting my business, engaging in healthy self-care rather than losing myself in mind-numbing distractions... I accomplished a great deal, but there were plenty of things I wish I had done more of. 

Still, being flawed is part of human nature, and if there's anything I've learned from Carrie and Leonard (and Prince and Bowie and Zsa Zsa and Ali and George), it's that some of those perceived flaws can be turned into strengths, or at the very least will make you stand out from the crowd. It's not easy, but it's necessary, and I'm working on figuring out which aspects of myself I can be more accepting of and pour into my work rather than fight against. The flaws in our society? Well, those I'm still committed to changing. That's a lesson they taught me too.

 
   Tchau, 2016. I guess you weren't all bad.

Tchau, 2016. I guess you weren't all bad.

 

All of this is to say, I'm still processing the year past. I truly don't know what 2017 will bring; there's a lot about it that scares me and a lot that excites me. I'm doing my best to recommit to my goals and refocus my scattered thoughts, and thinking a lot about how I can use the inspiration my dearly departed heroes imparted to the world before they left. I don't do resolutions so much as I set intentions - the things I would like to bring more of into the world. In my case, I'm aiming for more acting, more writing, more tarot, and more resistance. We've got a tough fight ahead of us in so many aspects of the world, and I'm preparing myself to step up to the plate. Oh, and I'll try to write here a little bit more, too. 

Wishing you all a smooth transition into the year ahead and good fortune as you progress through it. Happy New Year!