Pondering the Impact of 2016

It’s hard to capture this past year into a single thread, but let’s start with some of my favourite things…

2016 has often found me walking the streets of Melbourne with Lake Street Dive’s Can’t Stop on loop - it either embraces an existing swagger, or gives me a new groove when I otherwise am lacking.

Though when I find myself sitting down - and especially if I have access to proper stereo speakers - it’s Michael Kiwanuka’s gorgeous album Love & Hate (iTunes, Spotify) which I’ve reached for over and over again. For the record, the epic opening (Cold Little Heart) and the title track are my favourites, but the whole thing’s superb.

The changes of this year have also given me wider windows of time for reading. My favourite books of 2016 have all given me new perspectives and made serious impressions on my thinking.

  • Maxine Beneba Clarke’s The Hate Race is simply and beautifully written, often devastating, and I’d love to see it become required reading for every high school student.
  • Stan Grant’s Talking to My Country is thoughtful and powerful, and provokes important conversations about Australia and how we collectively need to do a far better job at engaging with and supporting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
  • Kate Tempest’s The Bricks That Built The Houses brings her characters and their experiences to life so richly, and with amazing prose. I highly recommend watching her read the first chapter.
  • And Becky Chamber’s The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet is such a deftly moving, thoughtful joy to read. Having books like this in the world makes me so happy.

Beyond all the tunes and words, this year has personally been quite a journey. I’ve cofounded a social enterprise, Limbr, focused on making mental health care more acceptable and accessible, spoken at conferences on three continents, and so regularly have been surrounded by amazing people. I am extremely lucky, and extremely privileged.

Of course, the global picture at the close of this year isn’t nearly so bright.

Celebrity deaths are sad but inevitable - even if the causes or timings are tragic. The continuing rise of facism, racism, bigotry and hatred, though, are not inevitable. These can - and must - be fought against.

Perhaps this is the year that those who have lived quite comfortable and privileged lives now realise that actually things aren’t so great. We need to be doing a far better job at taking our own power and influence and crafting a safer and more accepting world. We got lazy and selfish, and that has resulted in pain and suffering for others.

To anyone saying the arc of history trends towards justice - that’s great news for future generations, but small solace to many, many people alive right now who aren’t straight, white, old men reaping the easy rewards of systemic racism and sexism.

Don’t be complacent. Don’t think for a moment that everything will just work out in the end.

I know that the coming year will be filled with growth for me. Growing a nascent organisation, growing my skills in helping lead Limbr, growing relationships with people.

… but that’s just one aspect of what’s ahead.

I’m under no illusion that 2017 is going to be tough and filled with challenges for the societies and cultures I care about and live within. 2016 was just the prologue, and the righteous fire it has stoked is going to need tending and channeling.

I’m not sure what the right path forward for me is yet - I’m pondering how best to make my own work reflect my values, how best to grow my awareness of others from paths different to mty own, how best to look after myself, and how best to help those around me.

Wishing you all the strength, joy and support needed to take on this new year (and a bit more besides).