2017 In My Rearview Mirror
Well, it's finally the end of the year. 2017 was, in many ways, both a literal and metaphorical dumpster fire. It was a year we had to survive. But it was also a year of extreme transformation for me, for which I am unbelievably grateful. I have a lot of hopes and plans pinned on 2018, but before I can get to those, I need to take stock of everything this year brought me. I'm borrowing an idea from my friend Cait Flanders, who borrowed it from Daisy at No Sidebar, and taking the last day of 2017 to reflect upon the year that has passed. I've undergone a great many changes this year, some of them incredibly difficult, but as I look back I can say with complete conviction that I have zero regrets. I loved hard. I stayed true to myself. And, most importantly, I answered the call from within, best encapsulated by Rainer Maria Rilke's maxim: "You must change your life."
Here are my answers to Daisy's ten questions designed to help us end the year intentionally.
1. What made this year unforgettable?
This was a year of massive change and growth for me. So much has happened that I still feel like I’m processing it all on a daily basis. I kicked the year off with a couple of weeks of intensive preparation for a protest at the presidential inauguration on January 20th, which was my first time participating in a large-scale direct action. 2017 was the year I started to put my body on the line for justice, and the first time I experienced state violence firsthand. I joined the activist community in DC. I started this blog in earnest and made writing a priority. I turned twenty-five years old. I developed a spiritual practice and began to read tarot. I started running again and raced my first 10K. I quit my job, planned and canceled a round-the-world trip, planned and canceled a move to Barcelona, ended my long-term relationship and lost my partner, reconnected with someone else and then lost that person, too. I went home to Southern California for two months, the longest amount of time I’ve spent there since I was nineteen. I evacuated my childhood home during the largest wildfire in California history. I started freelance writing and landed my first byline. And I planned my first-ever solo trip, which is how I ended up here, in Madrid, writing this blog post.
I think (I hope) that I will look back on 2017 as a year of major transformation, in which I set in motion a series of changes that will define the person I want to become.
2. What did you enjoy doing this year?
More than anything else, I enjoyed writing. Even after coming home from a long day at work, more often than not I found myself wanting to sit down at my laptop to write. I have always loved writing, but this was the first year that I realized that I must write. To me, writing is like breathing, and I’m finally allowing myself to experience the full depth and breadth of joy that writing brings me.
3. What/who is the one thing/person you’re grateful for?
I honestly can’t choose a single person for which I’m grateful, because the only reason I got through 2017 was the people in my life.
I’m grateful for the activists in DC who taught me an unimaginable amount about community, accountability, justice, and love. They taught me to envision a better world; they taught me abolition; and they taught me how to throw down.
I’m grateful for my co-workers, with whom I weathered the Republicans’ many attempts to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, and who supported me as we worked together to care for our patients.
But above all, I’m grateful for my friends and family - many of whom I met through work and activism - who supported me during one of my most difficult life transitions this fall (see my answer to the first question). I am grateful for my people, in DC and LA and New York and Iowa and the Bay Area and Madrid and Italy and everywhere in between. I absolutely would not have survived without them, let alone mustered the courage to take this trip.
4. What’s your biggest win this year?
My greatest and most important achievement of the year is that I was brave enough to change my life. But other than this steep personal growth curve, my biggest win is that I started freelance writing. I’m still in the early stage of my freelance writing career, but I finally started despite my anxiety and perfectionism, which was a huge victory for me. I’ll be learning the ropes for a while, but I’ve got a couple bylines under my belt and big goals for my writing in 2018.
5. What did you read/watch/listen to that made the most impact this year?
The book I read that most changed me was Roxane Gay’s memoir, Hunger. She is my favorite author and role model, and reading this book taught me so much about how to tell my own stories with authenticity and vulnerability. The film I watched that made the biggest impact on me was Paris Is Burning, the classic documentary about New York City’s ball culture. I watched it during DC’s Pride weekend with a bunch of friends, and none of us had any idea how much of current mainstream culture and slang originated from these LGBTQ communities of color. The podcast I most loved listening to is Buzzfeed’s new Thirst Aid Kit, which is hosted by the inimitable Bim and Nichole. I loved their guest appearances on my longtime fave Another Round and Thirst Aid Kit is pure delight. I can’t listen to it in public because they make me laugh and blush too much.
6. What did you worry about most and how did it turn out?
I wish I had a different answer to this question. I worried the most about the first year of Trump’s presidency, and we all know how it turned out. There’s no use mincing words: it’s been horrendous. I am placing a hex on Trump, everything he has done, and everything he represents.
7. What was your biggest regret and why?
Okay, so if I’m being honest, I have one regret, which is that I didn’t go to Charlottesville in August. Many of the DC activists I know went August 11-12 to resist the white supremacist rally there, but I opted out in order to protect my mental health. I felt intense guilt that entire weekend as I watched the violence play out over social media, and I wish I had been there. I absolutely would have been traumatized, but I still can’t help but feel that I should have been there to do that work and better support other activists, particularly the Black activists who put their bodies on the line to resist white supremacy. Knowing what happened, it’s hard to say I wish I had been there, because nobody wants to experience trauma. But I wish I’d done more.
8. What’s one thing you changed about yourself?
I trust myself much more now than I did at the beginning of the year. I’ve been working to trust myself more for years, and there wasn’t a single “aha” moment in 2017 when I realized that I’m much closer to where I want to be in this respect than I used to be. I can only conclude that after going through the roller coaster of this year, I’ve become more confident in my ability to navigate difficult situations and make tough decisions. I still have a ways to go - my stomach is filled with butterflies about my solo travel as I write this - but I’m confident that I’ll continue to trust myself more and more as I grow in 2018.
9. What surprised you the most this year?
I guess what has surprised me the most is life’s tendency to change so quickly. More than any other year, 2017 brought rapid transformation to my life in both positive and negative ways. Things can turn on a dime, which I suppose I knew in theory, but I really experienced that for the first time this year. I’m in a very different place at the end of the year than I thought I would be. That’s okay, but it was certainly a surprise.
10. If you could go back to last January 1, what suggestions would you give to your past self?
Buckle up, babe.