Last year on this exact day, I wrote a post called "Say No to Resolutions, Say Yes to Experiences." If you read it (or remember it, you dedicated reader you), the piece radiates with optimism for 2016 and even joked that Trump may win the presidency. And, well, that's no longer a joke.
I also encouraged you and myself to seize opportunities and learn and grow in a new year. 2016 couldn't be a loss that way. I still stand by that. Okay, I'm about to admit I may have misled you.
Resolutions are challenges to yourself that are binary in their outcome: you either succeed or you fail. There's rarely middle ground. And life is not black and white. That is why you should embrace experiences. You can't fail at those. Even your failures are experiences.
However, today, a year later, I admit I may have lied a little. Your year couldn't be a loss, but 2016 could be. As Sara wrote Friday and hundreds of other blogs, editorials, and Facebook posts have declared, 2016 sucked. Besides the deceased, we learned Taylor Swift is a snake. We had an ugly presidential election. World War 3 seems right around the corner. And your friends now find out when you screenshot their Snapchats (or did that happen in 2015?).
But simultaneous to 2016's self-destruction, I've smiled over the last several weeks to read and hear of others' personal victories this past year. While 2016 may have blown on the macro level, the micro level didn't have to suck. That is important to remember as we look out onto 2017. A new year can be your personal best, or at least better than 2016, so that on January 1, 2018 (gosh, it sounds so far away), we can declare 2017 our best year - even if Betty White dies, America ceases to exist as a democracy, and/or I still don't graduate from my PhD program. (Spoiler: I don't think I'm going to.)
So today I say, rub the sleep out of your eye. Drink a Gatorade or go to Starbucks and prepare to make this year your best. Make this the year of doing you.
No, stop that. It's no longer funny.
Personally, this was my greatest year of life to date. I wish I could be more humble, but 2016 f***ing rocked on a personal level. Since third grade, I had harbored a dream of globetrotting travel and wanted to declare 2016 the year I would go abroad, but I still remember being too afraid last December to write that. I was terrified I would not go, I would not achieve my dream, and to not be a further potential failure, I would not declare that my 2016 resolution. (I also don't do resolutions - remember?)
Two months into 2016, I dashed off to Copenhagen and Malmö. Three months later, I skipped town again to see northern Holland. And two months ago, I returned from Doha, Qatar. Talk about kicking a ball out of the park. And this year, I'm looking at travels to Germany, Italy, and Costa Rica.
I also ran my first race - and first marathon (separate runs). I successfully defended my dissertation proposal and, more important to this blog, I helped coordinate a whomping success of a Richmond Brunch Weekend that raised nearly $12,000 for VCU Massey Cancer Center (which we aim to repeat with even more success March 25-26, 2017!).
Among those highlights, I also watched best friends marry and other close friends become engaged. I got hit by a car - twice. I broke an Uber. I learned to Segway (let me add that to LinkedIn skills). And a secret society caught me running their Twitter (so sorry, not really).
Most of these (mis)adventures I completed on my own. I went abroad by myself. I ran by myself. I learned to balance on a Segway ultimately by myself. And I also got hit by a car by myself. I did a lot of things by myself.
This is because you are the one responsible for you in the end. Your life, your destiny, your future, your success, and your happiness are not contingent on others or the year you live in (with some qualifications). It is you who you will always be with, you who you will end up with, and you who you will die with (and possibly with God to greet you). So you better start living with yourself - and living the best life you can.
Make 2017 the year of you. And, also, make 2018 the year of you. And every year after that. Make it difficult for the next year to be better than the last. Strive for experiences you can't top, growth you can't beat, and adventures you can't forget. And, still, make the next year even better.
While the world may fall apart, you don't have to. You can have a great year.