Reflections on 2016 from a twenty-something-year-old brown city queen

It’s 2017, y’all. New year, new me. This brown city queen is back and ready for change, action, and hopeful travels. And 2016 is finally behind us, gently distancing itself from me and my squad, fading away in that awful wide-screen rear view mirror of my two-door 280zx.

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At least… that’s what I feel like I’ve been hearing from friends and family members about 2016.

“It was a bad year.”
“More downs than ups.”
“So ready for 2016 to be over.”

For some, this WAS a terrible year: financially, emotionally, politically, academically, and the list goes on. I can’t speak for someone’s lived experiences. If they said it was bad, then it was bad. Their truth is their truth. I will also argue, however, that at times, we filter and censor our truth, in part cause we have to, another part because we were taught to, and in some distant part we subconsciously just do it. We separate the good the bad from the happy and sad and the ugly. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie tells us about the danger of a single story. One perspective. One angle. One point of view. It’s not the whole story, just a chapter eagerly read or begrudgingly skipped over.

And so, I argue that, in light of some of these really, truly, and genuinely awful crises and situations that have plagued my country and others (e.g. my sadness with Trump as the president-elect of the United States, more black men dead and unjustly murdered, a new President of the Philippines, Hurricane Matthew in the Caribbean affecting places like Haiti and Jamaica, and additional examples that vary in their own respective degrees of disgust, disappointment, and drab), there has to be some golden nuggets that have come from such a year, right?

What were those minute, specific, subconscious-like moments that happened on the individual and personal level? 2016 surely had to have some of those for you, for me, for each one of us. When did we experience even the tiniest glimmer of hope and progress, the smallest glimpse of happiness and love, the faintest feeling of success and pride? Or is my optimism kindly mistaken for ignorance and bliss, rooted in privileged ways of being and thinking and operating in classic White supremacy? Is it false positivity or realistic optimism? Which glass is it?

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I prefer, and hope – hehe, my optimism peeking through once again – that it’s the latter. And so, I started thinking. I started asking friends a few questions, not directly seeking answers to how they “really felt about 2016”, but to gauge what truly was salient for folks, and for myself. How often did someone cite Trump in an answer, quote unemployment as a factor for one’s unhappiness, favor the time spent with a specific loved one in all of its romantic, spiritual, and emotional goodness? And it was their answers to these questions that inspired this blogpost, and my need to truly give 2016 some closure.

Because there are some wounds that have to close, some that need to heal, and some that do just that, and yet, they still become those intimate reminders of our past and future, etched and criss-crossed into our skin. How can we make goals, set resolutions, and do better if we don’t know what we enjoyed, what we hated, what made us happy, scared, and angry? We need to know the “whats” just as much as those “whys”. There is a quote from Jose Rizal, a Filipino writer, activist, and hero, which I believe says, “Ang hindi lumingon sa pinanggalingan ay hindi makarating sa paroroonan” and can be loosely translated to”Know history, know self. No history, no self.

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So here it goes: a little look into the past and a glass half full for the future. I asked the following questions to my friends, all who responded in their own unique ways, and righteously so:

  • What was your favorite moment of 2016?

  • What is one thing that you’ve learned about yourself in 2016?

  • What is one thing you’d like to work on, improve upon, or prioritize in 2017?

  • Name 5 people who you’d like to reconnect with in 2017. And do it.

To be fair, I won’t repeat their answers out of respect for their privacy. Instead, I’ll use this next section to invite you all to answer them for yourself. Do some self-reflection. Turn on the Acoustic Soul playlist on Spotify, pop open that bottle of wine from Trader Joe’s, and get to it. This is for you and doesn’t have to be for anyone else’s entertainment, but your own.


And in case I piqued your interests, here are my responses to those same questions:

Q: What was your favorite moment of 2016?
A: I will forever remember the day I graduated from the University of Vermont with my Master’s of Education in Higher Education and Student Affairs Administration. Walking into the Grand Maple Ballroom was my village of 20 who had raised, supported, and believed in me from the moment I got on that first plane to Burlington, Vermont to the moment I honored my forever Queen Ru Paul on that hooding stage. The clashing, colliding, and beautifully mixing of my California family and my Vermont chosen family. The dramatic 10% increase in the Asian American population in the state of Vermont with my bayanihan casually cruising up and down Church Street like we were walking through the pews for Sunday communion. To go from one hood to the next hood. It was a day of joy, love, pride, and gratitude.

Q: What is one thing that you’ve learned about yourself in 2016?
A: I am both adaptable and resilient, capable of surviving AND thriving in new environments, able to make sense of and take ownership of my high expectations and lived experiences. I am deeply awesome and talented in so many ways intellectually, emotionally, physically, and spiritually; having spent close to three years now in Vermont, the 2nd whitest state in the country, should speak for itself. And while I like to have an end goal one, two, five years out, I know I will make those much-needed adjustments along the way and pick up every penny and quarter of opportunity that lands before me.

Q: What is one thing you’d like to work on, improve upon, or prioritize in 2017?
A: I hope to prioritize my long term long distance relationship with my partner Mark.  Looking back, there were several times in 2016 where my relationship with my LTLD partner took the backseat on my list of priorities. Frankly, work took over, and it still does at times. It’s so easy for me, a type-A, an achiever and strategist, an ENFJ, and an optimistic perfectionist, to get lost in the befores & afters of work. I love my job. It fits me. It gives me both joy and headaches. But I also love him. He gives me both joy and heartburn. And he needs to know that, every single day of the year, in the small moments, and in those acts of grandeur.  I guess I’m ready to make some sacrifices and enter the unknown of 2017. And I know that I don’t want to be alone on that journey.

Q: Name 5 people who you’d like to reconnect with in 2017. And do it.
A: CV. NV. KC. MB. BV. Time to take my own advice and take that leaf of faith.

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Now, these questions (and the answers that came out of them) furthered sparked another train of thought, this time along the lines of gratitude. I try and practice gratitude every single day (both in its recognition of it and in its expression) because I am a firm believer that there are so many things to be grateful for. And yet, by the end of the year, I am always somehow inundated with this overwhelming wave of appreciation and gratitude. Most recently, it’s having had the opportunity to spend my favorite holiday, Christmas, with my loved ones (both family and friends). It’s having the chance to catch up with my high school friends and enjoy moments of throwback jams, evening car rides, talks of future wedding plans and general life updates, and partake in unforgettable “live as we go” and “free for all” moments. It is recognizing the gift in being able to hold the hand of the man I love and feel so secure, so seen, so heard, and so felt through that one touch, that one interaction. I am grateful for the gift of life, for never second guessing my privilege to be alive and well, to be happy and whole. I am grateful for it all and miss every moment I am away from the people who love me, and who I love so unconditionally in return.

Gratitude is not just about reflection, appreciation, and thanks; it is also about fear, about hope, about dreaming, about learning. It is knowing what you’re scared of losing and recognizing that you haven’t lost them yet. It is about appreciating what you have and hoping for the better. We are dreamers, yearning for the unknown, the gift of time. We are learners, soaking in every relevant detail of who we are, where we are, and what we are capable of doing, only to further push ourselves to achieve, believe, and grow. Gratitude is a process of complex emotions that help us make sense of our lived experiences and the context we experience our life in.

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Before you completely throw away 2016 like a moldy vegetable in the trash, may I challenge you to take some time out of 2017 to engage in some critical reflection about the year? What happened? What went well and what could have gone better? What were those small pockets of friendship that are worth revisiting and recultivating? What is there to be grateful for? How and why should 2017 be any different? And maybe, once you’ve finally received some closure, you can wholeheartedly begin to ring in (or resume ringing in) this year of the Rooster with that one cliched yet to-the-point mantra of “new year new me”.

Best of luck, my friends. ❤ 

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