As journalist Lindy West puts it ‘…every year we declare the outgoing year to have been the worst year ever. This time, we may finally be right.’ There’s no denying it – 2016 has been a shocker. Perhaps even ‘the mother of all awful years’. Trump, Aleppo, the not-plebiscite and the dying reef, not to mention the deaths of Bowie, Prince, Leonard Cohen, Victoria Wood; the list goes on. But as we enter a new year, it’s important to remember the good things too and make what difference we can.
Sometimes it’s the smallest things that bring hope and positive reflection. The other day I opened my gratitude journal for the first time since school let off. Love ‘em or hate ‘em, there’s something about filling one that’s oddly fulfilling. While I do object to forced school gratitude programs (‘you will be grateful! You must!’), I love the process of going through and writing something down day to day. The contents of my diary ranged from the big (emergency services, running water, a home) to the little (rubber bands, stupid jokes, poetry) to the ridiculous (knees, without which the leg would not bend). My journal reminded me that this was a year of travel, movies and finding good music. As we head towards a new year and new uncertainties, it’s easy to let the everyday triumphs get lost in the great dreadful maelstrom. Just remember, just because it’s small doesn’t mean it doesn’t matter. Take all the small things and use them as armour.
Armour, perhaps, for facing the world head on. The world can be scary and sometimes downright horrible. But Mary Elizabeth Williams tells us that we should be optimistic – not naïve, but getting out of bed “determined not to accept a bad fate”. If we just accept that it’s all bad and hang our heads, or worse, insist that it will only get poorer, how are we ever going to change anything? Change doesn’t happen because we acknowledge that we need it to – change happens when we do something. Those at school have in our hands at least six weeks of holiday. Use it to do something! Volunteer locally, write passionately or interact with someone different. 2017 is going to be difficult, but being optimistic and proactive can make the difference.
Outside my window is a young wattle tree grown from a seed. Behind it, a gum tree spreads pale, chalky branches high above the house. Its long, thin leaves dance in the slightest breeze. The backdrop of the sky changes constantly. On a special day, the late afternoon sun comes slanting in my windows with the breeze, full of the colour of trees and horizon. It smells like rain and warm cut grass. Remember the quiet moment that stays with you. 2017 will be somewhat bad, but full of good too. And, of course, we have hope, which rebellions are built upon. May your 2017 be full of gratitude, proactivity and late afternoon sunshine.
 West, Lindy, 2016, for The Guardian
 Williams, Mary Elizabeth, 2016, for The Guardian