Twenty-seventeen was shit. For a lot of us. For a lot of reasons.
In the social justice movement, it seemed like we just could never get ahead, like we were running an endless marathon with no water and no finish line in sight. And every time we thought we’d seen the worst of the Trump administration, the reckless toddler in a suit would send out a Tweet or slash a vital, Obama-era regulation and prove us all wrong.
I spent many nights last year lying wide awake in bed, wrestling with whatever horrible news came out that day; I spent many days filtering through my social media feeds and feeling let down with every scroll; and I spent many hours out in the streets exercising my right to peacefully assemble.
I also unfortunately was diagnosed (finally after three years of mysterious pain) with a chronic connective tissue disorder. I spent more time than I wanted to in doctor’s offices getting blood tests and MRI’s, and I spent far too much money on co-pays. To top it all off, I woke up in the middle of the night on Christmas Day violently vomiting. I then spent the following day in the ER and was diagnosed with a kidney infection.
It was officially a year of frustration, a year of resistance, and a year of major distraction.
At the beginning of the year, although clouded by the inauguration of Donald Trump, I set several goals for myself, mostly related to creativity. As a musician and a writer, art has almost always been a part of my life. Last year, I wanted to make it my year. I was in the process of wrapping up an album with my band and had my sights set on writing a novel that I had dreamt up one night in late 2016.
But by the time the release date for my album rolled around in September 2017, my heart just wasn’t in it. I was exhausted. I was angry with the world. To me, making music felt meaningless and insignificant. So I did the bare minimum when it came to advertising and marketing. Boxes of CD’s and posters still sit in my basement collecting dust.
Next thing I knew it was December. And I realized I hadn’t written a damn word of that novel.
It was easy to feel like a failure. It always is. Especially when you pursue any artistic endeavors.
But last year was a bit of an anomaly, even for someone like me who is pretty unusual. I had no idea what was in store for us as a country and as a movement. Or perhaps I did, and I thought I could still be my usual creative self in the midst of all the chaos.
While visiting my friend in California during Christmas, after I had finished throwing up chunks of my kidneys, we were talking about the past year and the craziness of it all. I mentioned how this year I wanted to get serious about my writing because I felt like I had gotten lazy. But my friend reminded me, very clearly, how disordered and traumatizing 2017 truly was for so many of us. She reminded me how many of us changed our priorities because we saw the horror that was happening all around us.
I sat back and thought about it for a minute. And then I laughed.
The ground was taken out right from under our feet, yet I expected to carry on with business as usual? What was I thinking?
We live in a society that expects us to push on no matter what challenges come our way. But nothing about that is realistic. We’re human, after all. And those of us who are sensitive and who soak in everything around us like sponges are more prone to commotion. And it does absolutely nothing to beat ourselves up about what falls to the wayside as a result.
So in 2018, my goal is to cut myself some slack. And I want us all to give ourselves more credit. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and a novel can’t be written overnight. A business can’t sprout up out of nowhere. An album can’t make it to the Billboard charts every time.
And that’s okay.
We have to be gentle with ourselves now more than ever. We are in uncharted waters, and some days, it’s a victory just to breathe.
Whether or not I finish the first draft of my novel is irrelevant. In the grand scheme of things, it means little. No one’s life depends on it. And most likely, your goals aren’t life or death either.
So do what you can. Do what you must. Do what feels right, in the moment. Because we have another slug of a year ahead. And we have to be able to show up for it fully, without guilt or apology.