What I Learned from 2016

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Well, 2016, you sure did not disappoint. It’s been up and down all the way through. And in the end, whether if just by a thread, I’m still here, and I’ve learned a few things along the way.

The year started with a break up; I left I job I loved for many reasons yet it was clear I needed to move on. What I hated leaving were mostly the people. These great people made a lasting impression on me. I learned a lot about myself through the eyes of these people and took some lessons from them as well. It’s a pretty amazing thing when you have the pleasure of being around fascinating people that make you want to just be better.

Since then my professional life has been on the rise. I got back to who I am and what I want to do. I relaunched this blog, which has been such a joy for me. To write about life and share my stories makes me happy. And I am motivated even more to keep telling more stories because of the response I’ve received. I’ve also been able to meet and work with many interesting and intelligent people on marketing strategies. My “day job” is a bit of a bore, but I’ve met many exceptional people.

Of course what took precedence most of the year was the remodel. I spent months with no floor, a few weeks with no kitchen and a few moments when I may have considered going to a hotel alone! And then finally, things came together. I won’t congratulate us just yet. We still have one more ceiling to scrape and two bathrooms, which means we’ll have to share a bathroom for a time.  Good luck to us.

While things have been mostly positive and joyful, the world itself has continued to be challenging. It’s nothing new. Conflict arises over the same things over and over – religion, race, power, money and anything that seems “different.” Have we learned nothing from history, have we really devolved? I’m not an expert on the human condition; I am however an observant storyteller. I’ve seen real anger and fear in the faces of many. Yet I’ve also seen beautiful signs of humanity. One afternoon on the way home, I saw a dog with no leash or human. It’s a busy road. He was definitely someone’s pup based on his good condition. I went to pull over and three other cars did as well. A lady jumped out and scooped him up as he was about to walk into the road. I needed to see that, it gave me hope.

I lost a lot of hope in this culture during the election. It showed a lot of the worst in people. I don’t believe that some people are all bad or good. I think people are all shades of gray, light and dark pieces in us all. But l learned something very important the morning after the election. I was on the train, earlier than normal. Two middle aged men were standing behind me on their way to offices in skyscrapers. They were complaining about lack of sleep because “They waited so long to call it.” Then one says to the other, “At least there’s not a woman in the White House.”

I don’t believe the race was lost because of gender. I’ve tried hard to dissect how and why things happened as they did. I get that things certainly aren’t as our founding fathers imagined. But I do know that when they wrote, all men are created equal, they meant white men like themselves. Everyone else has had to keep fighting for that equal. Those words I heard that morning helped me understand that I need to keep trying to be a strong voice and force for women in any way I can regardless of who is in office. I’m not burying my head in the sand. I’m going to stay as educated and informed as possible. Someone has to.

The year ended with a simple wedding, joining two people who are more concerned with a dazzling marriage. Marriage, and the wonderful man I now call husband, have taught me so much already. No matter what 2017 has in store, we will weather it together. This is perhaps the best lesson of 2016 – it’s the special moments and time with those we love that matter – everything else is just noise. I’m all for more joy and less noise in 2017. I’ll do my part; hope you will, too.

 

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Thoughts on Westworld and What It Means to be Human

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So, we are fascinated by Westworld. Billed as a science-fiction thriller where humans live out their fantasies with AI-induced hosts, Westworld is actually about much more. It asks the question, “What does it mean to be human?” and has a running theme of “pain” as the crux of consciousness. The hosts are wiped clean after every trauma but soon begin to remember. Is this what pushes them toward consciousness?

In the real world, humans of course can’t have their memories erased. We carry them around. They may act as shields or barriers or even medals. Our experiences do shape us and inform who we are and the choices we make. Sometimes for good; sometimes to our detriment. But it’s worth asking: does pain make us human?

I don’t do a lot of what if anymore, where I would run through my life and consider alternatives. What if my mom would have lived? What if my father would have been a part of my life? What if I never had cancer? There are a million other ways my life could have gone. I have no idea if I’d be the same person without pain, but my guess is no.

Westworld also has a recurring thought about loss, that the pain from loss (in the show it’s the loss of a child) is all someone has left. I’ve written about this before. That my pain is what makes me know it was real, that my mom and her love and devotion to me were real. I long ago stopped trying to shred it, but it’s also no longer my armor. You don’t have to be consumed by your pain in order to hang onto it. It’s not going anywhere. I won’t miraculously wake up one morning and have a whole heart again.

If I had to answer the question, then I’d say yes, pain does make us human. I don’t think any of us are pain free, however, some have led a more comfortable life. If given the choice, I’d say many would opt for that comfortable life. Not me. I’ll take the pain. I’ll take all the good and bad that came with my life. I didn’t choose the pain. I didn’t ask to be born. But I choose to live this life that I have and make the best of it. Without this life and in turn this pain, I wouldn’t be able to write things like this with such passion. My voice would more subdued; my thoughts more simple.

Westworld has been a ride in its first season. I was so eager for every second of it, reminding me of my obsession over Lost. But like any great piece of art, it made me think about my own place in the world and question it. I’m glad to be aware of where I’ve been and where I am. And, I would always choose the pain even if enchanting Dr. Ford told me he’d wipe it all away.