Can we (really) celebrate 2016?

Well hello there, all of you lovely Internet people. It’s been awhile. Mostly because business school has been pounding me into the ground a bit, but also because I haven’t been feeling particularly inspired. I kept starting posts and promptly deleting them, going to the kitchen for a snack, or getting distracted by Stranger Things. I would then proceed to dramatically text a friend about how I probably have ADD and will never succeed at life. But I digress.

Several weeks ago, I read another tweet that killed me. For some reason, tweets seem to be instrumental in my life lately. This one read, “Have we tried unplugging 2016, waiting ten seconds, and then plugging it back in?”

I died.

This year seems to have been difficult not only for our country (and the world) as a whole, but also for so many people in my life. While there have been lots of lovely things, there have also been tears and goodbyes and transitions. There have been senseless shootings and mean-spirited debates and devastating explosions. There’s been rampant racism. I’ve watched friends of mine grow in incredible ways, and I’ve also seen them endure some really painful things.

On top of all this, I personally tend to get a little overwhelmed every year around this particular season. The end of a calendar year feels like a deadline – and my mind starts to race with thoughts of all the things I haven’t yet been able to accomplish.

Of course, this is a bit ridiculous. If I really think about the year in detail, there were beautiful and life-changing things that happened. I started business school, moved into a new house, and I SAW HAMILTON. It was a wonderful year full of so many things to be thankful for. And yet, there’s this voice that starts to creep in at this time year. A voice that tries to convince me that it’s not enough, that everything I’ve been trying to work toward is out of reach, that I haven’t grown or healed or made forward progress. That I’ve failed.

The feeling isn’t necessarily specific to December and January, but it gets magnified at certain times. I think we all feel it, in various ways. The restlessness consumes us and we run around recklessly, trying to be more and do more and give more. If, like me, you test as an Achiever (3) on the Enneagram (which has been a huge topic of conversation in our house lately), you might hear it a little more often than usual. We feel it individually, but also collectively. Have we made any progress at all towards being more kind, more loving, more brave? Are we doomed as a country and as people to repeating our mistakes? Will I ever become the person I want to be, or reach the goals I've been running toward? The questions ring in our ears obnoxiously, waiting for us to crumble. But all the while, God is working, gently redeeming all things and bringing beauty out of our striving. And so often, we fail to see that beauty because our attention is turned toward that annoying little voice.

A few weeks ago, I drove to LA in the pouring rain with a car full of my cousins, to play board games at Gamehaus. Just like every other basic California girl, I am obsessed with rain. But unfortunately I couldn’t take an artsy Instagram photo because I was driving and that would be illegal. So instead, I thought about why I love it so much. It just calms me down in a way that few things do – it’s like the water’s telling me Shhhhh, don’t worry love, just relax, everything will be fine. In the end all of this will be washed away, so don’t rush so much, just rest and laugh and love people. Just live. 

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Of course, this touching moment didn’t last that long because there was general chaos in the car and I was trying to force everyone to listen to Hamilton. But I kept thinking about it for awhile. What does it mean to truly rest and enjoy life? To just let go, even for a moment, of our need to accomplish, to win, to improve? To stop living in desperation and start living in joy?

I don’t actually know yet. In everyday life, it’s really, really hard for me to put this into practice. But in 2017, I am going to try.

I want to start thinking of the end of the year as more of a celebration. Instead of a deadline, a magnifying glass for our unmet expectations, or just a chaotic time of year where we’re all obsessed with shopping, perhaps we can think of it as a time to honor the year that has passed. Maybe we can acknowledge the hard things – the pain and the longing and the heartache – but also celebrate the love and beauty and healing that sprung up from it all. Maybe there’s plenty of space for us to do both.

Sometimes I hesitate to lean into the celebration because I’m afraid that I’ll forget all the things that still need to change. It’s as if I somehow forfeit my prayers and goals and dreams for the new year if I stop long enough look back with happiness on the old one. But really, it’s probably the other way around.

When we embrace the good, when we choose to dwell on it and let it fill us up – it changes us. It transforms our perspective and it gives us hope. It reminds us that every year brings it’s own kind of magic – and that every year in which we get to live, work, cry, and love each other is truly a gift.

So go ahead, make some New Year’s resolutions. Don’t stop dreaming or growing, ever. But make sure you pause every once in awhile next year to just lie down and look at the moon, to let a conversation linger for a few minutes longer than usual, or to create something beautiful for absolutely no reason. It’s hard to find the time, but when you do, it feels glorious.


PS: Just for fun (and in the spirit of celebration), I put together a list below of some things that brought me joy via pop culture in 2016 (in no particular order). Check it out if you’re into that sort of thing, and send me your recommendations because I probably forgot lots of things. We can all be cheesy and reminisce together.

  • Sherlock Special (The Abominable Bride): This episode was a little weird, but I honestly didn’t care because I had Sherlock withdrawals. Those two could read the phone book together and I would watch it beginning to end.
  • House of Cards (Season 4): I got a little bored during Season 3, but this one delivered. That moment at the end. I can’t.
  • The Hamilton Mixtape: If you listen to only one song on the Mixtape, it has to be Immigrants (We Get the Job Done). But this whole album is one of the most creative projects I’ve ever seen. I’m obsessed.
  • Zootopia: I’m not usually into animated movies, but this one was surprisingly deep and moving. Also, Shakira plays a pop star who happens to be a gazelle. What more can you want?
  • Captain America (Civil War): This was so different from other Marvel movies. Lots of interesting character development (which I am a sucker for). I can’t get over how charming and perfect Tom Holland is as Spiderman.
  • Nine Track Mind (Charlie Puth): Just a ridiculously catchy pop album.
  • This is Acting (Sia): Sia’s voice kills me. I often try (and fail) to emulate her in the car.
  • Phase (Jack Garrett): Amazing, amazing album. I listened to “Worry” probably 200 times on repeat.
  • Arrival: This movie was beautiful. The themes of language and communication and understanding wrecked me.
  • The Jungle Book: Visually amazing. Jon Favreau is a genius.
  • Hail, Ceasar!: I didn’t know much about this one before going in, but it turned out to be super charming, unique and funny. Also, Alden.
  • Stranger Things: No explanation needed.
  • Lemonade (Beyonce): Now this list is just becoming obvious things that everyone loves. I’M NOT THAT ORIGINAL, OKAY.
  • Jane the Virgin (Seasons 2 and 3): Hilarious, unique, and moving. Gina Rodriguez is like, legitimately one of my heroes.
  • Georgica Pond (Johnnyswim): This duo’s harmonies are insane. “Summertime Romance” was on repeat for weeks.
  • HERE (Alicia Keys): SHE’S BACK (insert the emoji that cries happy tears).
  • Darkness and Light (John Legend): I’m starting to run out of interesting adjectives now. But this album is seriously…magical.
  • The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo (Amy Schumer): I would not recommend this to everyone, as parts of it are pretty rough. But overall I thought it was inspiring and funny. I also listened to the audio version, which Amy narrated herself. It was like she was in the car with me.
  • Caves (Caves): I randomly discovered this worship album and couldn’t stop listening to King of My Heart. The drummer is (running out of adjectives again)…prodigious.
  • Live Sessions, Vol. 2 (For All Seasons): FAS led worship at EvFree for Easter and it was wonderful. I’ve been stalking them ever since.
  • I’m Alone, No You’re Not (Joseph): Three sisters who have heavenly voices. Like Haim, but a little better.
  • The Nightingale (Kristin Hannah): A beautiful WWII story (I can never resist those) about two sisters who respond to the war very differently.
  • Gilmore Girls (A Year in the Life): With the amount of expectation placed on this reunion, I was genuinely afraid to watch it. But it turned out to be amazing. I watched it all in one day with two of my best friends while eating pop tarts and pizza. Afterwards we went out to debrief and simultaneously ate more food.
  • Brooklyn Nine-Nine (Season 3): This is just the kind of ridiculous comedy I can’t resist. Gina Linetti is my spirit animal.
  • Coloring Book (Chance the Rapper): I recently discovered that Chance is 23. TWENTY THREE, PEOPLE. I need to rethink my entire life.
  • Justin Timberlake + the Tennessee Kids: This Netflix special is insane. The band is so talented, and they all look like they’re having the time of their lives. Besides being a childhood favorite, JT has to be one of the best performers I’ve ever seen.
  • VEEP: Again, I would not recommend this to everyone but it is hilarious. Julia Louis-Dreyfus KILLS me. #JONAHRYAN4CONGRESS
  • Talk 30 to Me: I may be biased because it was co-created by my best friend, but I genuinely think this is one of the most warm and endearing podcasts I’ve ever heard. If you’re a 30 Rock fan and just want to hear other fans talk about how much they love it, this will be your jam.
  • Silicon Valley, Season 3: I think I especially love this show because I work in tech, but it’s also just incredibly smart and funny. And it’s full of lines like this.

That’s all I can think of for now. Send me your list if, like me, you’re on winter break and have time for such things. And if I don’t get myself to post again before January – Merry Christmas. Thank you for reading this. It’s been one of the highlights of my year to start writing and engage in some wonderful conversations as a result.

Here’s to a new year of risks and joy and rest. And hopefully a little more rain (because I hear we’re in a drought).