Photo by Jess Lowe from the Routeburn track.
In New Zealand, we’re one of the first countries to ring in the new year. My husband and I are in the midst of finishing the building of our home, so we just had a few friends over for drinks. We participated in a Russian tradition – at the stroke of midnight, we wrote wishes down onto bits of paper, burned the papers, dropped the ashes into our glasses of champagne, and drank them down. Brutal, but effective.
The clock ticked over, and a marker in the passage of time was passed. It felt no different to any other moment, and yet, for many people, it is everything.
Professionally and personally, 2016 has been both challenging and amazing for me. I hit bestseller lists with my books, was a finalist for the Attitude Award, moved to a new job, built the great hall on our home, hiked the Routeburn track, met many new, wonderful people, and spent a lot of time with those I love and cherish most. I spent a lot of time blissfully making my art and seeing it enjoyed by readers all over the world. I am blessed to have opportunities and relationships that strengthen and sustain me.
For many people across the world, 2016 marked a time of despair and hopelessness. Many of our idols – strong and fearless flag-carriers of the dispossessed, the weird, the free-thinking – have passed over. We’ve seen heroes and heroines fall and falter, and ideals we hold dear challenged and trodden down.
More than the loss of our idols, we feel the loss on our ideals. Across the world, ideologies are shifting. Progressive and liberal standpoints are increasingly stamped out and suffocated. Aleppo burned and no one cared. We see the people in power and we fear for what they may do, and what ideas they may spread. As Chuck Wendig said, “2016 was a nasty beast who nested in a cradle of our heroes’ bones.”
If you’re ever worried about one person’s ability to make the world a bad place, then take heart in the fact that one person cannot alone destroy all the goodness the human race is capable of achieving. Despite all the bad that has been wrought this year, the human race has made great strides toward increased awareness, equality, and peace over the last year.
A highly effective vaccine against Ebola was unveiled. World hunger reached its lowest point in 25 years. Tanzania and Gambia banned child marriage. The Pan-African government issued a continent-wide ban on female genital mutilation.Denmark became one of the first countries to recognise being transgender not as a mental illness. 800,000 volunteers in India planted 50 million trees in one day. DAPL got shut out of Standing Rock. Punjab Protection of Women Against Violence Bill came into effect – a 31 clause Act which provides a system for complaint registration and penalties for offenders.After protests that 90% of its streets are named after men who are regarded historically as racist leaders, Spain is renaming its streets after important female leaders. Solar-Impulse made the first round the world flight by a solar-powered plane. David Bowie left us with the beautiful Blackstar album, Fleshgod Apocalypse brutalised us with King, and Nick Cave gave his grief as a gift through Skeleton Tree. Giant Pandas no longer endangered, and the Tiger population increased from 3,200 in 2010 to 3,890 – the first time in a century the population is growing. Sarah McBride, the US National Press Secretary for the Human Rights campaign, was first out transgender woman to speak at a major party convention. Same-sex marriage was legalized in; Oglala Sioux Tribe, Mohican Islands, Greenland, Colombia, Campeche, Colima, Michoacan, Morelos, Isle Of Man, Prebla, British Antarctic Territory, Cherokee Nation, Jalisco, Gibraltar. John Key quit … You can find more news to uplift your spirit in this beautiful list of 99 of the best things that happened in 2016.
All over the internet, people are making their own lists, a protest of positivity.
2017 is going to be an important year, I feel it. There will be tough moments, for sure. But I have unfaltering faith that the kindness of all humankind will win out in the end. If you ever feel like it won’t, then we have not reached the end yet. We are capable of bountiful goodness. I choose to remain optimistic, to be always hopeful and engaged and excited by the possibilities for this tiny rock in the great wide cosmos.
Despite this positivity, I want also to contribute more to making the world into the place I am proud to be a resident of. I am guilty of living in my own bubble at time and of feeling as though my role is to simply muddle through this mess as best as I can. But that stops now. 2017 is the year I use my blessings and my work to further the causes I believe in.
I have my achievement-based goals for the new year, things like writing 6 books, finishing our house, building our courtyard, saving a certain amount of money. The boring goals we all have. But I have some other goals that I’m excited about. Now that our house is nearly done, my husband and I recently had a discussion about the kind of things we want to do next. More travel, of course, and other projects around our land. But also, there are causes we want to support, things we want to do to make a meaningful difference in our own community. We want to start putting some of those into action.
There are some stories I have wanted to tell for a long time, but I’ve been afraid to, for reasons that are very real but suddenly seem very unimportant.
I’d like to use my writing as a voice for stories that don’t get told, to help people who feel hopeless or downtrodden to be lifted up. When the world throws up challenges, its art people often turn to for answers, to sort out how they feel and to find their strength. It’s art that takes the flicker of ideas and transforms them into movements, into bastions around which people can congregate.
I don’t want to be political – I want to be human. My resolution for 2017 is my revolution.
(If you want to read about the ins-and-outs of my process and see the creation of these projects from behind-the-scenes, become a patreon supporter.)