Yes, 2016 Sucked. But It Was Good Too.

I don't know about you, but I'm sick and tired of hearing about how awful 2016 was.

I'm not saying anyone is wrong to think this year was terrible. Without a doubt, some unbelievably terrible things happened. But I'm tired of dwelling on those things. I don't want to wake up every morning thinking everything sucks. If I do that, I won't get out of bed.

Yes, 2016 was hard. It was sad, traumatizing, enraging, earth-shattering, and downright weird, in a bad way. But it was also weird in a good way. It was mesmerizing and awe-inspiring and messy and beautiful and full of hope.

Last night, at the New Year's party I was at, one of my friends said, "What if every single person had the courage to have hope? What would 2017 look like?"

It's easy to remember all the crappy things about a year. It's hard to find the good. Finding the good takes courage because you're taking the risk that that little bit of good could be snatched away from you, and then you'll have nothing left.

But good does not come out of a vacuum. It comes from people—people who have the courage to hope. 

In 2016, Whole Women's Health won its Supreme Court case against the state of Texas, laying to rest a law that attempted to close abortion clinics over hallway lengths. In 2016, thousands of people around the country supported the Native Americans protesting DAPL, and the Army Corps halted construction of the pipeline.

In 2016, Catherine Cortez Masto became the first Latina senator, Kamala Harris became the first Indian-American senator, and Ilhan Omar became the first female Muslim senator. In 2016, Hillary Clinton became the first woman to be nominated for president by a major party. And I hope all her 65,746,544 voters are ready to fight to continue the progress we made this year.

In 2016, scientists found evidence that the ozone layer is healing. The tiger population increased. A solar powered plane flew all the way around the world. In 2016, more renewable energy sources were made than ever before.

In 2016, veganism went mainstream and took the internet by storm. In 2016, I became a vegan, and it's one of the best decisions I have made in my entire life. I've dramatically reduced my greenhouse gas footprint. I'm making food choices that prevent suffering and make the world a better place. And I see the people around me making small changes—eating less animal products and trying vegan recipes.

Small changes lead to big changes. Small changes are how we—ordinary people—change the world. Imagine what would happen if all 65 million people who voted for Hillary decided to cut animal products out of their diets. Imagine all the destruction we would prevent—all the lives we would save.

Yes, 2016 was hard, but it has challenged us to dare to hope. Our current political situation promises only to bring more hardships, but we must not allow ourselves to give up. The patriarchy did not win with the election of Donald Trump. But they will win the day we throw up our hands and decide that all is lost. They will not win as long as we do not surrender.

In 2016, I started lifting weights, with the help of my good friend Cara Brennan. And the main lesson I've learned from weight lifting is this: If your muscles aren't sore the next day, you didn't really do anything.

Pain is necessary in order to get stronger. Perhaps it takes a year of enduring one tragedy after another to prepare us to fight—and win. Twenty-sixteen has brought us together, and made us realize that we are all working toward the same goals. And you know what they say: "Many hands make light work."

In 2016, I celebrated my one year anniversary in the best relationship I have ever had. In times when I felt hopeless, my boyfriend Jack has reminded me that I can always find hope somewhere if I look hard enough. In times when I felt cheated, spited, and exhausted by life, he has reminded me that love always rejuvenates.

Either we can continue to characterize 2016 as an utter waste of space and time, or we can find something to learn from it, and use those lessons to improve ourselves and the world around us. Either we can fall into despondency, or we can find the courage to hope.

I would like to say thank you to 2016, for the gifts you have given me, the lessons you have taught me, and the way you inspired me to fight. You were what some would call "fuel for the fire." You were gritty and unruly and outlandish and heartbreaking. 

And you were beautiful. Yes, in many ways, you were beautiful.

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