Trust me on this one.
2016 was hard. A lot of really great, innovative, inspirational people died. The country I live in elected an angry Oompa Loompa for President and he’s trying real hard f*ck everything up. Some good people tried to stop an oil pipe line from destroying sacred land and eventually contaminating a major water source, and it didn’t really work. Lots of POC were beaten and killed by cops. Women might have to start getting abortions illegally soon.
Quick aside: if you voted for Trump, you’re already probably upset with this essay. I get it. We don’t share the same opinions and that sucks, but I’d appreciate it if you didn’t troll and try to get a rise out of me. It won’t work anyway. You are you, I am me. Nothing I can say will change your mind and nothing you can say will change mine. So just close this tab and go back to whatever you were probably supposed to be doing right now and save your trolling for someone else’s post, k? Thank yewwww.
On a personal level, I had to navigate the kind of treacherous depression, anxiety and heartbreak that most people don’t live through. And I did it sober. There were a couple of months where every day I wished I would get hit by a car as I rode my bike around Minneapolis because it hurt that much to be a person. Some of the people I’ve loved the most have said some of the most hurtful shit I have ever heard a person say and I had to choose to walk away from them. Which was really hard. Because I really like to hang around people who say hurtful shit, you guys. It’s kind of my thing.
Lots of super cool stuff happened, too, for sure. But why focus on any of that? 2016 is a massive trash heap of maggot-infested dead things that no one likes, right?
Yes, 2016 was hard and painful. But I wouldn’t change a fucking thing. Which is good, because I can’t. I’m not writing this to show you that 2016 was actually a great time that you should quit being sad. I would never tell you to do that. I do, however, think 2016 was the realest year we’ve had in a long time. Below, you’ll find 3 lessons we can learn from all the flaming diarrhea thrown at us in the last year. If we do it right, we could change this into the beginning of a great story about how we turned things around and leveled up as a species:
Lesson One: We’re all gonna die, so we better start living like it.
We lost Bowie, Prince, Gene Wilder, Alan Rickman, George Michael, Carrie Fisher, HER MOM DEBBIE REYNOLDS A DAY LATER and many more, this year. This is all very sad, for sure, I’m not sure if you know this, but a shitload of other people are gonna die in 2017 too. Also in 2018. Same for 2019. This is due in part to baby boomers getting older and the fact that being a person is hard, and we, as a culture are taking really shitty care of our bodies and minds.
I don’t want to bum you out even more but some day, you will also die. There is no amount of money, fame, love, joy, yoga, food, whatever that will prevent you from dying. You might be able to stave it off by taking better care of yourself, but ultimately, you have no idea when you’re gonna die. Your death is going to be like life throwing you a surprise party so intense that it actually kills you.
What a trip, right?
So when that day comes, do you want to look back with regret or do you wanna say, “You know what? I screwed up a bunch. I also did great. I loved as hard as I could. I said sorry when I meant it. And I tried a little bit every day to be better than the day before.” That was a rhetorical question. Don’t let all those great artists die in vain. Live as greatly as many of them did in whatever way you can.
Lesson Two: We all need to start going all in.
I have a very serious question to ask you: What have you, as an individual, done in response to literally every other garbage thing that happened this year surrounding things like the election, our environment, police brutality and women’s rights? If your answer is: I tweeted about it, then you’re not doing enough.
Be angry. Be sad. Cry and scream. But there is a point when all the searching for people to blame transitions from grief to wasted energy and only you can decide when that is. It is important to remember that there are people who need our help. Armchair activism is an obvious giveaway that you are trapped in your own personal shame cycle and it is going to shorten your life span.
I get that it can seem overwhelming and you’re not sure how you can help. I also understand that your personal schedule/socio-economic status/fears/traumas will play into what you can and can’t do. At the end of the day, you can perform a 5-second google search and you will be provided with many options that will work for you. If you are afraid that you will not have an impact, you are fooling yourself and being a coward and we all need you to stop doing that right now. Making an impact in one person’s life is better than not making one at all. If you are afraid that you will fail, then I am going to let Brené Brown shut that shit down:
“You can do everything right. You can cheer yourself on, have all the support you can find in place and be 100 percent ready to go, and still fail. It happens to writers, artists, entrepreneurs, health professionals, teachers — you name it. But if you can look back…and see that you didn’t hold back — that you were all in — you will feel very different than someone who didn’t fully show up. You may have to deal with the failure, but you won’t have to wrestle with the same level of shame that we experience when our efforts were half-hearted.”
So, pleeeeaaassssseefortheloveofwhateverthefuckyoubelievein, start going all in. Please. We need you. And that brings me to my final lesson:
Lesson Three: We need each other.
A big part of the reason my bloated corpse is not being fished out of the Mississippi right now is because I asked for help. I asked true, good, loving, warm friends who wouldn’t stop telling me that they loved me when I told them that I just didn’t want to be a person anymore. I stopped engaging with toxic people and I worked really hard to create an inner circle that I could trust.
I also have a therapist and she is my hero.
None of this has been easy, but it has kept me here. Our species was not designed to navigate pain alone. This is undoubtedly a painful time and people need you and you need people. Expressing this need is a beautiful display of vulnerability and takes a massive amount of courage and strength. While all of us came pre-packaged with this strength, some of us have had it beaten out of us by life.
This courage is, however, always within our reach if we are willing to put down our flimsy adult armor and see each other for what we really are: scared kids in big bodies trying to find love and stay alive as long as possible.
So while it feels like things have been crumbling at an astonishing rate and there is no relief in sight, I beg you to remember this overused, but very powerful quote from the late great Leonard Cohen, “There’s a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.” So let’s usher in some game changing light by living like we mean it, going all in and supporting each other along the way.
Tatum Fjerstad is a yoga, meditation and writing teacher who also designs websites and edits and ghostwrites books. She lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota with her cat, Gary, and she is well-loved by some really amazing people. To be her new best friend, visit her website.