Dear friends, we made it. What a shocker 2016 was, there will be few of us sorry to leave it behind. What losses we suffered, what terrors we witnessed, such uncertainty was born.
But we’re out. The New Year always feels like a threshold to change. Not that it’s a guarantee of any sort that things will improve, that things will look up (that Trump will behave), but it’s an emotional line in the sand. We put things to bed and we look anew. Something changes in our vision; we are prepared to try again.
But we are allowed to mourn too. The punches kept being thrown in 2016, and by it’s close we were practically on our knees. The artists gone; David Bowie, Alan Rickman, Prince, Leonard Cohen, Alan Rickman, Caroline Aherne, Gene Wilder, Carrie Fisher, George Michael, all dead. And so many more…
To top it off, we are about to lose President Obama, and the marvellous Michelle; it just feels too much.
We have lost music, art, humour and grace. It’s like we’ve lost light, like we’ve lost colours.
We witnessed human tragedy beyond imagine, as Aleppo was destroyed before our eyes. Social media posts from the people there were unbearable to see. Terror attacks on innocent people, just going about their business, or enjoying themselves became almost commonplace. We used hashtags with sympathy messages too frequently – Nice, Istanbul, Berlin, Brussels – #toomuch.
In fact, the year began with the horror of hundreds of women in Germany and Sweden being raped at New Year celebrations. The term ‘Taharrush’ meaning ‘collective harassment’ or ‘justifiable rape’, was new to us. We began to fear for women more than we have before.
Earthquakes and politics shook the globe. Brexit being the first of the shocks and the realisation dawned that we don’t, in fact, have a handle on what people are thinking and feeling. In the greatest political shock, of my life anyway, Donald Trump was elected as US President – causing outrage and worry throughout the world. The havoc wreaked throughout his campaign – the misogyny, racism and aggression gained pace and gained place. We thought it was different over there. We were wrong.
The global political stage is a very different and scary place than it was at the beginning of 2016, and we take that heavy baggage into this New Year with us.
So what now?
Well, quite simply, we have work to do.
I’m sure you will have heard of Apollo House in Dublin this Christmas, where a group of artists, activists and unionists have occupied a NAMA owned building to house a community of homeless people over the festive season, with a view to forcing change in the standard of care for our most vulnerable people. It is a brilliant, brave and noble initiative that came from a group of citizens, who were, frankly, sick of the lack of action on the part of the government. They stood together, had conversations, made decisions and took action.
Well, there is a quote by Margaret Mead on the gates of Apollo House that defines the message for 2017 in my view, it reads; “ Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed it’s the only thing that ever has”.
That. That, my friends, is the key to making 2017 a better year despite the challenges. We must rise up, we must band together, and we must create a revolution. And no, it’s not that you must become an activist per se, (though if you do, more power to you, we need that), but you must try to be the change the world needs. Don’t underestimate what I call ‘everyday acts of revolution’, and they are myriad.
Every day, in your own life you can make small changes. Today, as you are no doubt thinking of the year ahead and your own personal goals, be mindful of what we, as women, need to do. There is such a need for female voices, and female presence in the big conversations – teach your daughters that. Teach them that what they think and feel is vital, that their imagination is important, and that their instincts are true. And, then, be sure to say those things to yourself, for us, as grown up girls often needs that reinforcement too. Be hopeful, positive and powerful. Because is who you really are. Don’t let the darkness hide you, we’ve had enough of that.
Advocate and act.
We learnt this year, that echo chambers don’t actually work. Yes, they make us feel as though we are part of something, and to feel understood is lovely. But go beyond the Facebook chamber of fellow yes people, go to the people who don’t understand you and try to share ideas. For that is the only way to be an agent for change –and that is what is needed – change.
Be brave. Do something you think you cannot do. Because, you know that feeling in your gut? The one that’s telling you you can? It’s right.
So, what in the everyday can we do? Well, try these for a starter:
Speak up at work. Speak up in your family. Speak up at your kid’s school. Speak up in public if you see oppression or intimidation of any sort – yes, that’s scary, but if you can, be brave and do it.
Just speak up. Question things. Get inspired. Quest a little. Stay focussed. Don’t settle, or accept what doesn’t feel right. Get excited about possibility. For the way to make things feel different is to add newness in slowly but surely.
There is another quote that says this well, “If you inherently long for something, become it first. If you want gardens, become the gardener. If you want love, embody love. If you want mental stimulation, change the conversation. If you want peace, exude calmness. If you want to fill your world with artists, begin to paint. If you want to be valued, respect your own time. This is how to draw it in, day by day, inch by inch.”
Get healthy. Get Strong. Last year we needed strength to endure, this year we need strength to act. Set your intentions. Know you have power.
Hello 2017, together we can do this.
Very best New Year wishes to you, from all at IMAGE.