If 2016 were a roller coaster, it would be the kind that leaves your feet dangling in a pool of frenzied piranha and your head whipping into the clouds to catch a glimpse of the unicorns frolicking in Heaven. In other words, the highs were glorious and rare but the lows were absolutely horrible.
The dips of the ride 2016 were low and heartbreaking with the deaths of legends and history-making icons like Gwen Ifill, Alan Thicke, Leonard Cohen, Janet Reno, Arnold Palmer, Prince, Gene Wilder, Muhammad Ali, David Bowie, John Glenn, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Merle Haggard, Joe Garagiola, Morley Safer, Carrie Fisher, and sadly, the list went on. And in the middle of all this death, the presidential election gave us a full shock and awe ride. For that is when American civility, tolerance and basic decency was flipped upside-down in the name of progress and change.
Though losing all those notable figures and values in one year made our heads spin, 2016 brought us even lower by taking out names we may never have known, in cities we may never have thought about. Across the globe hate bread attacks, killing innocent people in the name of terrorism. From Iraq to Belgium to the United States, nameless people were murdered by tragic explosions, mass shootings and stampeding vehicles. Many of us will never forget the face of that little boy who sat in shock in the back of an ambulance in Aleppo.
However, this was not enough shock for a ride like 2016. No, it needed more “thrill.” So 2016 threw in some homegrown hate, natural disaster and local tragedy. The world stumbled around trying to fight a Zika outbreak that kept popping up around the globe. A mix of sadness and outrage flowed when a child was rescued after falling into a gorilla pit at the Cincinnati Zoo, which then resulted in the gorilla’s death. Fires raged in multiple states leaving a wake of homelessness, destruction and death. Hurricane Matthew struck the Caribbean as a Category 4 monster that claimed up to 900 lives and then flooded out many parts of Louisiana.
As we all tried to catch our breath from these steep descents, 2016 threw in even more twists and turns. We saw: a young singer get shot by a fan, churches and people attacked and killed because of their race, police offers murdered because of their uniforms, buses full of people overturned, random stabbings and shootings of normal people for ridiculous reasons, and a child drug away by an alligator at a Disney Resort.
This painful list of nonstop tragedies plummeted many of us into cold sweats and nausea. It was all we could take to not throw ourselves off the ride while it was in motion. But like they said when we boarded the ride, “Please keep your hands and feet in the ride at all times and remain in your seat until the ride is over.” So we clenched our teeth and prayed for it to end.
Now that it is almost over, many of us are relieved, or realizing we relieved ourselves during the ride. We are gathering our wits and prepping ourselves to get off this damn roller coaster. (And not too soon I might add.) As we prepare to walk away from the horrifying ride 2016, hind sight and bragging rights of survival will set in…eventually. The distance will allow us to acknowledge the highs of 2016. Yes, there were some. Just like any roller coaster, there were peaks and fun twists to enjoy.
For those of you who might still be in shock and denial, I’ll remind you of a few pleasant highlights of the ride 2016. (And yes, I had to look some of them up!)
Though our election seemed to kill some hope and human decency through its long contentious descent (on both sides), it did shoot us up through some glorious broken glass as six women secured political seats across our country. (Kamala Harris, Catherine Cortez Masto, and Tammy Duckworth were elected to the Senate, Stephanie Murphy and Pramila Jayapal won seats in the House of Representatives, and Ilhan Omar was elected to her state’s legislature.)
And whether or not you like her, First Lady Michelle Obama proved herself to be a brilliant orator as she dropped one awe-inspiring speech after another onto us, giving us hope we would survive the ride if we stuck together.
All the flips of the year were nothing compared to the mouth-dropping tumbling of the U.S. Women’s Gymnastic Team in Rio though. They stole our hearts as much as they did the gold medals.
Another fun surprise of the year 2016 was the rise in the tiger population. According to the World Wildlife Fund, 3890 tigers were found across the globe this year. If you think that is a low amount, think again. It is actually a huge increase from the less than 700 that were found in 2010.
If we paid attention on one of the ride’s peaks early in the year, we may have seen Scott Kelly descending from space after nearly a year at the International Space Station.
Or maybe we noticed the 108-year old curse that was broken when the Chicago Cubs won the World Series in Game 7. Yes, some of us (like me) wanted the Indians to win as they had a compelling story as well. But even so, you have to love the end of a curse. (Wait, does this mean the curse of 2016 can end too?)
On a much smaller peak, but still fun nonetheless, 2016 managed to get hoards of people off the couch and out of the house. Yes, they may have been walking around like zombies and bumping into each other as they stared at their smartphones looking for imaginary Pokemon, but that is not the point. The interesting side effect to the game was that even self-proclaimed lazy people were outside in the real world moving their bodies. One point for the Pokemon Go game creators there! And, as a side bonus to this plus, a comedian created a hilarious version of this game (Chardonnay Go, which is way more my style of game) that wound up going viral and had me, and many others, cracking up.
The ride 2016 even included a water attraction. Yes, it was a self-induced water attraction as people poured buckets of icy water over the heads in the name of ALS. However, the money raised from the viral challenge that took over our social media feeds is claimed to have raised money that helped researchers discover a gene believed to be among the most common contributors to the disease.
So amongst all the horror of 2016, there were moments that glimmered and made us smile. I suppose the extreme ups and downs are what makes a roller coaster so memorable. If all we had were peaks, we may not appreciate them as much. Those low points give us more perspective and balance. Though, the ride 2016 had to have more lows than several others. But, with that said, there is nothing we can do to change it. The ride is coming to a stop. So, we can either let this ride of a year beat us, or we can pull ourselves back together and move forward so we can prepare ourselves for another adventure.
Surely, 2017 will have its ups and downs like any other year. There will be shocks and twists and surprises. But I am praying for a brighter and more uplifting ride…because 2016, if you were a roller coaster, I think you’d be closed down.
Best Wishes into the New Year~Nato