A Good Year that Happened During a Bad Year

My twitter feed is largely a reflection of my world view, so I saw near-universal agreement in the last few weeks that 2016 was globally a terrible year. But I also saw a number of folks talk about the uneasiness of having a good year personally or professionally while they watched a very bad year unfold around us. It’s a sentiment I’ve struggled with since November 9th. There is no rule that a personal narrative is supposed to match the mood of current events, but it does make me feel like I’m having a bit of an out-of-body experience.

The Good Year

I have to start by being grateful for the clients that chose to work with Scottie Public Affairs in 2016, allowing my idea for a business to grow to another level in its second year. In February, I moved from a home office to an office space downtown that has been great. I hired my first employee in June, which has been a tremendous blessing. Having her to pitch in on current projects freed up my time significantly to focus on business development, which I think is paying off. I’m poised to work with some substantial new clients in 2017, and I’ll be excited to share more updates on those projects in soon.

Revenue was up more than 50 percent in 2016 over 2015, which is kind of an amazing thing to write and a pace of growth I’m pretty sure I won’t maintain in 2017. But it’s heartening to look in the rear-view mirror and see Scottie’s success to date and know we’re in a good place to start the new year.  

Personally, my little family had a pretty great year too. We started the year by getting rid of the Mini Cooper, which had become my sworn enemy due to ballooning maintenance costs, and got a sweet new Subaru. Even the mini-setback of getting dinged in a parking lot immediately after we bought the car felt like it led to a personal victory, because I then taught myself to do a respectable “fake it till you make it” paint job on the little section where paint scraped off.  I’ll be HAPPY to tell you all about it if you want more details.

In May, I organized a successful 25th anniversary party for my mom and step-dad, and my relatives still speak to me even though I was a bit of a drill sergeant about the details and keeping the surprise. On the last day of September, Ryan and I closed on a beautiful house in Friendship, which will provide me a lifetime of DIY projects but also an awesome kitchen that was remodeled two years ago.

Our cute new house, full of DIY project potential. I power washed the porch and steps, and it was unspeakably satisfying.

Our cute new house, full of DIY project potential. I power washed the porch and steps, and it was unspeakably satisfying.

 The Bad Year

The list of things that made 2016 abhorrent is as depressing as it is long. I’m not going to use this blog post to outline them, there are better (real) news sources for that. I will say for me, the New Year’s Eve terrorist attack in Istanbul was a real exclamation point on a bad year. I’m afraid with all the attention on Mariah Carey’s train wreck performance and our president-elect’s exceedingly mature well wishes to the country he’s about to lead, the Istanbul attack will be largely overlooked and quickly forgotten. I love Istanbul, and I’m so grateful that I visited it back in 2012 right before mass protests started. That city has had such a terrible year, I’m afraid it will only get worse for the people of Turkey before it gets better.

Despite all the memes about the depths of the pits of 2016, putting a lot of pressure on 2017 to be a markedly better year won't help. I’m afraid hope and optimism as an approach for next year will only lead to disappointment. Not that we should ever lose hope – we certainly need it, every day, to help us get out of bed, put on our boots and fight the Empire. Hopelessness and callousness will get us nowhere. But my concern with hope and optimism, in all the various forms I hear right now (i.e. “Let’s give him a chance and see what happens,” “We won the popular vote, so we just need to stay the course,”) are no substitution for a plan of action. Let’s be real. I think it’s going to get worse in America before it gets better. And it won’t just get better because the arc of the moral universe is long and bends towards justice on its own – people have to force it to bend.

The Next Year

There will be so much work in 2017, we can’t afford to hunker down and assume someone else will do the heavy lifting. Don’t let yourself use how bad things are, or false hope that they’ll get better on their own, as a reason to stay home. I’ve had a lot of conversations with folks who want to understand better what happened, and want to find a way to make change, but aren’t sure where to start.

The best advice I keep coming back to is, first: get educated. Read legitimate news. Pay attention to the source. Don’t waste your time on garbage gossip or hyperbole (this includes Slate headlines, so help me God Slate, clean up your act or I’m going to stop reading you). Understand that legitimate news often costs money. Pay for it. Subscribe to a few national outlets, but also give a hard look at your local paper. So much bullshit happens on the state and local level, and the people who cause the bullshit get away with it because no one is paying attention because they’re busy arguing about Bernie Bros or the Bachelor or some seriously irrelevant bullshit on Facebook.

Next: get involved – in real life. Don’t just like a post on Facebook. If you have time, volunteer. If you have money, donate it. Because just like real news, real change costs money. We can all decry the problems with money in politics, but if you want better people to get elected you should really consider donating and voting for them.

Finally: be grateful for the good things, even if its learning how to DIY a paint job on your car. Challenges present opportunities to test yourself. I think we’re all going to be tested in 2017, so let’s find out how strong we are.  

Abigail Gardner

Scottie Public Affairs