The Year of Consequence (and 2018, the Year to Come)

Someone recently said to me that 2017 wasn’t actually the year that everything went haywire – that was the year before. 2017 is the year we had to live with the tumultuous votes we made before it started. And, like with the realm of politics, for me 2017 has also been the year of decisions coming home to roost.

The consequences of 2016 linger. Both the good and bad have set the world on a course I’m not sure I can fully appreciate just yet. 2018 will perhaps be the climatic third act, the soothing of the horrors, where we recognise the error of our ways. The pessimist in me says that things always continue much the same, sometimes better, generally worse, and relying on fables of how things ought to turn out is really an excuse to not try too hard to change anything.

For myself, the consequences of 2016 have manifested in a way that makes 2018 feel like the ‘make it or break it year’. In March I applied to my Masters course – now I have an M.A. in Politics and Society and the beginnings of another language. My elegant new fuck-it attitude, inspired by spectacularly and permanently breaking up a close friendship due to an email in November 2016, meant I pursued a meaningful thesis topic rather than something bland and easier to sell to relatives. I ummed and ahhed over it, until my thesis supervisor simply said “Rushaa, you know what you want to do” and that was enough permission to throw myself into something I consider one of the best pieces of work I’ve ever written.

For so long consequence and failure seemed synonyms in my mind. Consequence has such a gravity to it that I could only envision it as something I did ending badly. I spent a lot of my time and energy dealing with an impostor syndrome that permeated every inch of my life. My anxieties of not being good enough have roots in many places; I tend to find it hard to trust that those close to me aren’t lying that I have talent. This is partially why I enjoy and thrive in academic spaces, as praise there seems more legitimate.

This is perhaps also why 2017 and dealing with what it caused, failures included, has been so good for me. Fuck-it attitudes work out temporarily, but it can’t be denied that they’re also deeply tied to the idea that you’re not actually valuable enough to need to worry about the consequences. These past few months I’ve been looking over the small choices I made in 2016 that have been positive, and then picking others to make now in order to best set 2018 up as a year where I can continue trying to accept appreciation without greeting it with scepticism.

Achievements in a capitalist system are always so tied to production that it can be hard to recognise internal growth as a success in itself. Status is earned in how many pounds we pull in, and how many people know our name. I am not saying I am now immune to this (far from it – I have been feeling stagnant because I am missing that social validation from a monthly salary) but I want to give space to feel proud of how different I’ve become and how willing I am to be weak, vulnerable, and most importantly let myself risk feeling resented or pitied for the chance to articulate my feelings.

The first post I ever wrote for this blog was supposed to change everything. It was freshly 2015 and I wanted to do something great with my life, aware that much of that motivation stemmed from a desire for external praise. The next year I was tempered, coming to the conclusion that life is actually about the minutiae of changes you make day-to-day that gradually lead to a wholesale transformation. Last year I just wanted to deal with political chaos by helping others and pretend that I didn’t also need help myself.

2018 will be about carrying a new confidence built from internal validation. I know that it will be messy but I am hoping that – just as 2016’s impact still lingers – my intentional interventions will reverberate across next year.

 

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2017, Year in Preview

2016 was quite the year – it seemed everything was shifting and that the best bet was always on the most undesirable outcome (at least for some). These past few months I’ve wanted to write about Trump, far right revivals, Castro, Austria, South Korea, the ongoing farce of Brexit, but the idea of adding to the noise without adding anything new felt a bit pointless, especially with actual Masters coursework I was supposed to be getting on with.

2016 was the year of everyone finally seeing the cracks in the walls, and the mould all over the ceiling. These were things that were already bubbling away, but each of us had selective blindness to some of it. I feared Brexit, but my sinking feeling about Trump I dismissed as excessive anxiety, reasoned out of by the sheer confidence of others’ predictions.

We’re now two weeks in to 2017 and I’ve already managed to fall into a freezing pond and set myself on fire for the second time in my life. And like a bad metaphor for the media’s understanding of the threat of Trump it took me a while to realise I was on fire because I was so into the show I was watching (who says millennials are easily distracted?).

2017, at least on a personal level, seems set to beat 2016.

Putting aside the increasing sense of doom, I don’t want to write 2017 off in the same hysterical way a lot of others are, declaring everyone will die and calling for some sort of Obama dictatorship. Yes, things are going to get worse but if you look at 2016 you can also find some good things that point to the way forwards. Sudan is an example of where protest has adapted to circumstances – instead of going out on the streets, people stay at home, showing dissatisfaction without technically implicating themselves in any anti-government activity. On a smaller level just looking through my social media shows me the way that people can pull together to help those in need in the intervening time between now and a future fix for all our messed up political priorities. You can host healing parties and socials where those from marginalised communities can meet, you can offer vital services at a discount, you can even just be making witty, insightful commentary on the news of the day.

In 2016 I discovered I was wrong about a lot of things, right about others, and most significantly I need to be more confident. For the past two years I’ve written some vague post around the subject of ‘New Years Resolutions’, regardless of if I actually had any. 2015 was trying to push out of my comfort zone and starting this blog, 2016 was trying some more and practising my Arabic, and 2017 is going to being trying harder, not only for my personal life but of those around me too. Maybe this will come about in a post-Masters political job, maybe I’ll do something on the side, but the solidarity which I feel is an important part of my leftist politics needs to be more overt than it has been in the past.

2017 is going to be tough. It’s the year of right-wing power, and more specifically the rise of a right-wing that has no time or love for people like me. It’s a year where basic things are going to be presented as shameful or threatening, whether that’s birth control in the US, standing up for immigration in the UK, being a refugee across the whole of the globe (if your news has only been dominated by the European “crises”, look at the regional issues stemming out of Myanmar alone), and countless other identities, political stances, or just plain old personal decisions.

2017 is a year where those of us on the left are going to have to reject that shame, on both a personal and political level. And true, it’s not going to seem like there’s much progress but it’s the same with fixing a house; you have to just start somewhere and keep going until it’s either patched up or collapses.

 

Things I’m Going to Do Differently in 2016

At the beginning of 2015 I wrote a little bit about what I was hoping to do in the new year. It wasn’t grandiose – if anything the piece was a tad dejected. I expected a level of failure before I even tried.

My plan was to go boldly into something that I loved, and also treat myself as someone I loved. My path has been a little mixed as I’ve certainly not come to any financial security but at the same time I am becoming more and more confident in my writing. It feels a lot like I am the mythical ship Argonaut in that famous thought experience. Slowly I too replace parts of myself, editing my humour, or how I approach work, or the way I laugh or how my hair is carved until I am not sure what is left of my original self yet I am certain I am still me, just a little better each time. 

So I have figured that this upcoming year I can build on this by returning to actual cliché goal set-up, except without any set way of measuring progress (I do still want to feel like a rebel occasionally).

  1. Seek out and accept interesting opportunities more, regardless of whether they are professional, personal, or just general fun.
  2. Practice and improve my Arabic.
  3. Actually ask for help when I need it, and graciously accept charity as well.

I think that these things, whilst not being super measurable soothe my desire to actually work towards something without feeling trapped by it. Years ago I used to set up 10 to 40 different mini-plans and they would inevitably crumble. There were times when I felt that goals were counter-productive; too often in my desire to make a yearly list I wrote aims I would later change my mind about pursuing, but would try to power on anyway just so I would get that sweet cross-out. It turns out that using this tactic just makes you miserable.

Anyway I’m in Berlin at the moment so I already feel that I’m on the right track before the year even officially begins. Currently I’m toying with the idea of finally dying my hair for the first time ever (I’m thinking a white/silver blonde because I’ve always wanted to be more like Storm). I’m trying out the boldness and so far it works.

Who knows what happens next.