My 2016 began with fireworks at the base of Edinburgh Castle. It was exciting—Edinburgh hosts one of the world’s most exclusive New Year’s celebrations, and I was in VIP—but circumstantial: Had the organizers of Hogmanay not paid me to come to Scotland, I’d have been in my Texas bed by 10 p.m.
And it was predictive: 2016 was a year I came to define by others’ milestones more than my own.
The UK voted to leave the EU during my doomed June trip to Malaysia, but although I had no horse in that particular race, I gave it equal weight in the post-mortem I wrote rushing back to the partner who’d manipulated me into flying across the world twice in less than 48 hours.
The bookends of my trip through the Balkans in late summer—My best friend’s birthday and a prolonged, sexless sex-date with a wheelchair-bound man named Nikola—were more central to it than anything that occurred between them.
I’d woken up hopeful of November 8, excited that my own country would vote to “Remain” as one of the planet’s sole bastions of sanity, but spent most of that evening begging American Airlines to let me fly to Nepal five days ahead of schedule, convinced only the cold, clean air of the Himalayas could wash away my fear and shame.
For most of the world (or, at least, most of social media) 2016 was the worst year ever™. It was as anthropomorphized by hipster bros mourning David Bowie as the Universe is by white girls pretending they’re not just confused Christians.
The events that transpired between January 1 and today were a result neither of happenstance nor the consequence of ~7 billion choices being made, but an intentional destruction of a generation’s dreams and hope for the future. Brexit and Trump and Pokémon Go and Aleppo weren’t mere tragedies; they were evidence that 2016 itself was the Devil incarnate, inspiration for a stash of memes so dank even Bernie Sanders couldn’t stand its smell.
But for me, 2016 was just another year: Roaming a calamitous globe and managing to stay mostly above the fray. (Appropriately, it was this year that I came to viscerally understand the concept of privilege, and how much of it I have.)
As 2017 looms, I’m under no illusion that it will somehow atone for the sins of 2016—or that it needs to. For me and for humanity as a whole, good and bad things will continue to happen in roughly equal measure and if we’re lucky, the arrow of time will slope ever so slightly upward. Change will be the only constant.
Change, and leaving.