Breaking up with 2016, and moving swiftly on

It’s crucial that we remember the good times

Like many people, I thought 2016 was going to be my year. I was going to stop smoking, start exercising, meditate every morning and attempt to write better articles and blog material. None of these came to fruition. Instead I got fatter, developed a cough, The Tab stole my only good joke of the year and I was dumped by my first love.

If in doubt, lie down and cry

If in doubt, lie down and cry

But beyond my subjective myopia, it’s easy for all of us to look back on 2016 as being a period of the 21st century rife with dystopian melancholy: the United Kingdom’s divorce from the EU, the death of a 17 year old silverback gorilla at Cincinnati Zoo, the frighteningly inevitable rise and success of another gorilla about to fling his proverbial turds in the Oval Office, the ongoing refugee crisis and millions of deaths across war-torn nations, to name a few terrible things which have happened. But not unlike an unhealthy end to a once happy relationship concluded by a necessary, if painful breakup, it’s crucial that we remember the good times, the sweet moments dotted around these upsetting events.

For example, pandas made their way off the list of endangered species, which is great because, like all of us to some degree, they struggle to mate. Five hundred elephants were relocated to a massive sanctuary where they are being kept safe from poachers. Portugal managed to run its entire nation on renewable energy for four consecutive days. Attenborough treated us to Planet Earth II, reminding anyone with access to a television that we live on a beautiful planet which, despite ever-increasing loss of habitat, allows animals, forests and ecosystems to thrive with natural resilience and beauty.

These things might appear to be of little recompense for a potential shitstorm headed our way for the New Year, but it’s crucial that we never forget them. In addition to all those little moments, we still have so much: friends, family, dogs, cats, chocolate, music… The list is endless. Even basic necessities like food, warmth and shelter cannot be taken for granted in turbulent times.

The heartache which the mega fuck-head 2016 has dealt us over the past 11 or so months is vital for our development as people. In my own breakup this year, the decline of the relationship was strange, almost paralleled with the denial of the dysfunction pouring out of political discourse around the world. The sense of gradual romantic dilapidation was there, but love covered it in a big tarpaulin of affection – I was utterly and willingly blind to things which were going steadily but surely wrong, an attitude I adopted which was ultimately unfair on both sides of the relationship.

In the spirit of so many of us this year, I fed myself the lie that everything was fine, that nothing couldn’t be solved and softened by love: like the echo-chambers generated by social media, I developed a habit of listening only to myself, shrugging off any notion that anyone could feel differently, that anyone could disagree with my behaviour or opinions, least of all my first and only love – we weren’t going to break up, we couldn’t break up. But we did. And so the relationship ended, albeit amicably, and we split apart to grow up and away from each other. The sheer optimism of my emotional obstinacy drove away what I loved most and landed me in a very uncomfortable dark space of loneliness out of which I am yet to crawl.

But I know, as we all do in what can appear to be a very sorry state of affairs, that I must: now it is time to move on, time to be stable, time to learn from mistakes and to thrive off unsuccessful endeavours of the past. And while love can contribute to a lack of foresight, while it can be a bit of a brain-glaucoma, that is perhaps the worst thing it can do.

As sentimental and illogical as it sounds, a raft of hope we can cling onto as we crash into a tempestuous 2017 is our ability to look at other people and to remember that they are just like us in a very basic sense. Human beings are social animals: our desire to be with each other is utterly innate, even in those who appear to enjoy isolation. If you resent the actions of people around you, people who voted differently, people on the television, politicians, celebrities, the worst part is that they’re just like you and they just want the best for themselves. Like any good relationship, you must understand the other, or you won’t understand yourself.

Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

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University of Oxford