2016 was a harrowing experience in many ways for many people. Personally, I have been blessed with health and prosperity this year, though I have watched current events unfold with great sadness and concern. The awfulness of 2016 seemed to happen all around and just outside of my life and the experience tested my personal endurance to witness suffering.
I’m grateful, though, not only for the stability and good fortune that I and my loved ones enjoyed this past year, but also for the learning and growth I experienced as a world citizen. In the last twelve months, I had my eyes opened to the machinations of many systems of oppression and circumstances of inequality that have made me angry, uncomfortable, and desperately sad in turn. I began to identify privileges and prejudices in my self and in those around me that I never recognized before, and felt empowered to work against them. For the first time in my life, I really started to pay attention to the events happening on the global stage.
I can’t say that I didn’t sometimes feel the immediate need to turn inward and cocoon myself from all the ugliness that the world had to offer — when I was too raw, too disappointed, I utilized my unique privilege as a white, cisgender, American female to withdraw from it all, and just listen.
That’s the most important thing I learned this year: the importance and the value of shutting up, and listening.
At BlogHer ‘16, I attended a transformational panel on the value of, and how to be, an ally. It was delightful, powerful, and humbling. Ultimately, one of the primary effects on my person following BlogHer was to stop blogging as much. Yes, I was busy with work, newly pregnant, and lazy, but I was also suddenly very aware of the terrible inconsequentiality of the whole thing. As I said in my very first post upon launching The Real Sarah C, “how wonderfully self-important of me”, to establish this soapbox for my own personal use, when all of the things that I want to write about, all of the things that I think ought to be read about and discussed, are not things that are happening to, around, or within me. I started reading and talking to the people that were “in the trenches”, and I stopped writing quite as much. It just wasn’t that fulfilling anymore.
I don’t know what, if anything, will change in 2017. Not just for me — will I continue to write for myself? Which causes will I become involved in? — but for all of us. There’s been a lot of hand-wringing going on in the last few weeks since the presidential election. And I get it — I’m not pleased with the outcome either, but I’m hopeful. Not just because I have this annoying tendency toward eternal optimism, but because of the tremendous response from all corners of our world. People are awake; not all, and not always in the ways they need to be, but I see some progress. That alone is worth celebrating. And all of the work we have left to do, that’s worth looking forward to.