With 2018 almost committed to the history books (or digital archives), we look toward the new year in the hopes that something will be different in a positive way. Personally, I don’t believe in New Year’s Resolutions. We all know they don’t work so there’s really no point in wasting the effort of making them.
However, what we can do, and most likely should do, is look at the things we can eliminate from our lives. A fair amount of the negativity in our lives is connected in one form or another to our own actions. We can significantly reduce, if not completely remove much of the negativity in our lives if we stop doing the things that open the door to that bad energy in the first place.
Of course, the laws of physics, which most certainly apply, require that if we remove something from our lives we have to replace it with something else. Remember that whole, “nature abhors a vacuum” thing (which is why nature always had a dirty carpet — insert rim shot here). Exactly what one uses as a replacement is subjective. I’ll include some suggestions, but as long as the replacement adequately fills the space removed one should be in good shape.
Let’s get started before you become overly bored with the idea.
We Don’t Have To Give Space To Toxic People
One of the biggest issues I’ve noticed this past year is the degree to which we (collectively) allow other people’s negativity to influence us, making us negative in response. In the new year, we don’t have to allow that to continue. We don’t have to give those toxic people space in our lives even if they’re family.
How do we handle that? First, by realizing those people are not likely to change. We should stop expecting anyone else to change for us; it’s not going to happen. The people who drain us the most are going to drain someone but it doesn’t have to be you.
Second, have some boundaries, people. Establish lines that work for you and don’t let people cross those lines. No one has a right to mistreat you, marginalize you, or disrespect your humanity.
Third, when someone starts with, “I need you … “ respond with a challenge for them to handle their own shit instead. Don’t be drawn into their crisis but offer a positive solution that doesn’t involve you.
One of the most difficult lessons I’ve ever learned is to walk away when someone goes toxic. I’ve had to end relationships with extremely creative people because they walked through the door with a negativity I could not abide. Don’t give them space. Find better people. They are in your sphere and the best part is, they don’t need you.
We Don’t Have To Tolerate Racism
Over the past two years, we have come to the sad realization that there are a lot more racist people in the world than we realized. Racists have been emboldened by nationalistic rhetoric around the world and have repeatedly shown their ugly faces on the global stage. We don’t have to tolerate those attitudes.
Racism is rooted in ignorance and combating ignorance is never easy because there are too many people who refuse to learn. We also have to realize that even the most deplorable forms of hate speech cannot be censored without imposing censorship on ourselves. Free speech doesn’t work if it only applies to certain people. The solution to racism isn’t to tell someone to shut up and be quiet.
Instead, what we first have to do is check ourselves. To what degree do our own actions promote and/or engage racism? Rip off those blinders and be brutally honest with yourself. If you have difficulty doing that, ask someone of a different race to help you. Other people see our racism better than we do ourselves. Make corrections to your own life first.
Then, be vocal in educating those who promote harmful stereotypes. Come at the conversation from a point of compassion rather than confrontation because everyone in the world is defensive at the moment. Dominate the conversation with Truth, not legend.
Don’t buy into politically correct rhetoric, either. No one is “color blind.” One doesn’t fill a plate with food and expect it all to taste the same. We have differences but the underlying equator is that most of us are roughly 97% human. That other three percent is Neanderthal unless one can trace a pure bloodline from Northern Africa, in which case one might truly be 100% human.
We Don’t Have To Accept Marginalization
Oppression and inequality come from people being marginalized, unfairly judged and placed in categories that define them as “different” in a way that’s socially unacceptable. We’re not only talking about gender issues, which is a primary area of marginalization, but age, weight, economic status, (lack of) religion, employment, level of education, language, and even the part of town in which one lives. We’ve seen all of these used to marginalize people in the past year.
What bothers me is how easy it is to marginalize someone else. “Act your age,” is marginalization. “You need new/different/better clothes,” is marginalization. “You go to church, don’t you?” is marginalization. “I can’t believe you eat meat,” is marginalization. “You need a better job,” is marginalization. “Speak American,” is marginalization. “You need to eat a cheeseburger,” is marginalization. Get the picture?
Enough. There’s no good reason to let anyone keep anyone else on the fringes. More than ever, 2019 is the year to embrace all of who we are, from the entire gender spectrum to dietary choices to belief systems and ancestral background. You are who you are and no one outside of you has any right or reason to challenge that.
Perhaps the most common quote from the movie The Big Lebowski is, “That’s just, like, your opinion, man.” Such an attitude and response is perfect for deflecting the ways in which people try to marginalize us. Who and what we are are rarely matters of choice and if someone wants us to be different, well, that’s just their opinion. We don’t have to accept it. In fact, there’s no good reason to let it affect our lives in any way. Remember, opinions are like assholes.
Be you, in whatever form that happens to be. Embrace you. Celebrate you. Let shaming die.
We Don’t Have To Follow Trends
One of the most disturbing changes in the retail economy has been the rise of “influencers,” people who have hundreds of thousands if not millions of followers on social media who make buying decisions based upon what other people wear and/or endorse. People are actually making a very comfortable living telling other people what they should do, where they should go, to what music they should listen, and what clothes they should wear.
Stop being a pawn. There is absolutely no good reason to listen to any of those people or follow them in the first place. Being like everyone else isn’t going to make you popular; instead, it makes you invisible. When everyone looks and acts the same, one person ceases being distinguishable from the next, making it easier for the whole mass to be manipulated.
Do your own thing. Wear what you want to wear, even if what you want to wear is nothing at all. No shaming. We devoted a whole photo series to this theme this past year and will be publishing those photos on the photography website during January and February. If you want to wear a t-shirt with a pencil skirt, do it. If you want to listen to a playlist that includes Cardi B and Wayne Newton, go for it. If you want to vacation in your grandmother’s backyard, enjoy the visit.
Fuck influencers. My personal new rule for this year is that I refuse to follow anyone on social media, especially Instagram, who has more than 20K followers (excepting those brands I need for professional reasons). We need to be more responsible in making our own decisions rather than letting anyone else tell us what to do. Let 2019 be the year when you are the biggest influence on you.
We Don’t Have To Fight Alone
2018 has seen some tragic deaths from the suicides of Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade to the drug/alcohol related deaths of Verne Troyer, Delores O’Riordan, and even Art Bell. We see tragedies like this every year, of course, but this year their number is higher. Opioid-related deaths are at epidemic proportions. Suicides are unbelievably high. All around us, people are struggling and I would be naive to think that some of the people closest to me are not struggling as well.
2019 needs to be the year we decide as a society that no one fights alone. Mental illness does not have to be diagnosed to be real. If we are going to save the lives of the people we care about then we have to do more than just re-post the number to the suicide hotline on our Facebook accounts. We also have to be honest in evaluating our own mental state and communicating that to others.
Let’s set aside the stigma of asking for help. You’re not “crazy” for not being able to escape the sadness and desperation you feel. You’re not “crazy” for being too overwhelmed to get out of bed in the morning. You’re not “crazy” if you’ve reached a point you don’t know where to turn or don’t see any way out of your situation. You don’t have to tackle life alone.
Sure, there’s professional help available, but most of us look at the price tag and know our insurance won’t pay for that. There’s still help and it’s probably closer than one might think.
I know reaching out for help isn’t easy, that’s part of the challenge of mental illness, so it’s up to the rest of us, even if we’re struggling ourselves, to reach out and include in our circles those who also struggle. We need to recapture what it means to be a genuine friend, to dissect life’s problems over a beer or string cheese or a bong. There are thousands of ways to reach out and thousands of ways to become involved. Find what works for you. You don’t have to fight alone.
We Don’t Have To Be Involved In Everything
How many times this past year have we reached the end of the day feeling totally exhausted from everything we’ve done but still feeling as though we’ve not accomplished anything? If your life is anything like the people I know, it happens far too often. We all have a lot going on, a number of activities in which we think we need to be involved, but too often we come away feeling as though we’re doing nothing but running in circles.
2019 is the year to apply the brakes. Mind you, the answer here is not to jettison everything in your life. Rather, take stock of the places where you can do the most good and limit yourself to those activities.
One of the biggest changes I’ve made this year is not posting here nor on the photography website as often. Sure, my numbers have taken a nosedive as a result, but I needed to back off for the sake of my own mental health. Creating new content every day was making me angry and difficult to tolerate. The decision was difficult, but it was absolutely what was needed.
Chances are high that you need to unplug from something(s) as well. Not being directly involved doesn’t mean that you don’t care. In fact, we can be quite passionate about certain issues without jumping into those issues with both feet. We only have a finite amount of time and space in our lives, though, and it is better to back off and let others take the reigns rather than doing things poorly because we’re stretched too thin.
We Don’t Have To Hide What Pleases Us
We find ourselves in dozens of closets of our own making. Decades, if not centuries of shaming have caused us to hide certain activities that bring us pleasure. We have allowed religious and government institutions to dictate our actions in too many areas of our lives and acquiesced to social pressures in others. Too often, we feel the need to engage in secret activities that, if we’re totally honest, have no good reason for being secret.
Having secret lives is not mentally or emotionally healthy. Therefore, it makes sense that we stop hiding those things that are not illegal but merely unconventional. When we do, we’re likely to find that those pleasures are not nearly as far out of the mainstream as we thought.
For example, I am constantly surprised by the number of people who are either secretly involved in or curious about the kink community. Every time I post rope pictures such as these, I get messages from people expressing interest in doing something similar. Should I, cautiously, mention in the course of conversation something involving an alternatively-minded social event, people almost always ask how they can be involved. The stigma we think is there is not as strong as imagined.
We have reached a position in our society where activities that were once considered “alternative” or even taboo are more popular than ever. Movies and books, such as the 50 Shades of Grey series, while perhaps poorly written, still reflect how popular and mainstream the topic of BDSM actually is. 2019 gives us the opportunity to step out of some of those closets and embrace what brings us pleasure.
Note: this not only includes items of a sexual nature, but others such as one’s food choices, entertainment choices, reading material, and/or travel choices. There’s no reason to hide any of these things any longer.
We Don’t Have To Accept The Status Quo
Bruce Hornsby’s 1986 hit “The Way It Is” bemoans how even laws such as the 1964 Civil Rights Act don’t change the status quo as long as people still respond with “That’s just the way it is.” We have, for a long time, taken an apathetic attitude toward society. We see changes in who’s in control of government but don’t see the forward progression that makes our lives better and walk away with the opinion that nothing matters. That’s just the way it is.
If 2018 taught us anything it is that the status quo can be challenged and changed. “They” said midterm elections don’t matter, but we had the highest turnout in over 100 years. “They” said millennials wouldn’t vote, but they did by the hundreds of thousands. 2018 proved how wrong “they” are. Now, we have the opportunity to build on that.
Governments from the local to the national level are more perceptive and responsive to their electorates at this moment than they have been at any point in my lifetime. Corporations are feeling greater pressure to respond quickly to public sentiment and are adjusting their habits and policies accordingly. Social organizations, having felt the loss of members and their donations, are shifting course, often replacing misguided tenets that were in place when they were founded.
There is nothing about “The Way It Is” that we have to accept. Anything can be changed right now. We can challenge everything from healthcare costs to marginalization of indigenous peoples and not only change laws but change attitudes in the process.
2018 showed us that we have the power to stand against the status quo. We don’t have to wait for another election. If we bombard our civic and corporate leaders the same way now as we did during the election, things will change. We have the power and there’s no good reason to not use it.
We Don’t Have To Assume Anything About Anyone
Profiling is passè. As we go into 2019 there is no good reason to assume that a person fits someone’s stereotype in any way, shape, or form. We’re over this thing of trying to lump whole groups of people into one definition. Everyone is an individual and needs to be treated as such, despite what everyone around them might be doing.
That means we don’t have to assume every Latinx we see is illegal or doesn’t speak English. We don’t have to assume that every person we see wearing a turban is Muslim (one of the worst stereotypes out there). We don’t have to assume that women with enhanced body parts are professional sex workers. We don’t have to assume that a person with more than one sex partner is a slut (stop using that word altogether, please). We don’t have to assume that all vegans are intolerable. We don’t have to assume that all liberals are socialist or that all conservatives are fascists. I could go on at length.
We, as a society, like fitting people into segments or groups so that we can more easily decide who to accept and who to deride. This is the year to stop being so fundamentally shallow, insensitive, and quite honestly, stupid. We know better so let’s start doing better.
We Don’t Have To Accept Anyone Else’s Bullshit
Trolling is terminated. The days of just letting other people’s rudeness and incivility pass without comment are over. We don’t have to accept such behavior online any more than we would if they were standing directly in front of us, which trolls are too cowardly to ever do. Trolls delight in causing trouble and the time has come to shut every last one of them down.
I’m thinking of people like Sabrina Rojas (Sab N on Yelp), an individual who presents themselves as a single mom living in Fresno, California. We’re not going to assume that is her real name or anything about them because the person(s) behind this account has a bad habit of going on salon Facebook and Yelp pages to leave bad reviews. How did this come to my attention? Kat was her latest target this past week. The salon did a client check and confirmed that no one using that name has ever been a client of Kat’s nor anyone else at the salon. This person has done the exact same thing to other salons, none of which they have actually visited.
I’m calling out the account (which we encourage you to report to both Facebook and Yelp) because we don’t have to put up with that kind of bullshit anymore. There’s no reason to tolerate this kind of behavior from anyone at any time.
This is only a sample of the horrible behavior we see. Things such as not showing up for appointments without so much as an apology? Yeah, time to stop accepting that nonsense. People who promise to do things and then conveniently “forget” are on that list as well. I’m sure everyone can add to that list at some length. We, as allegedly civilized human beings, need to straighten up our act and stop accepting rudeness as normal behavior, either online or in person. And if one sees that bad behavior in themselves, it’s time to stop.
We Don’t Have To Share Everything
Some information should remain private out of courtesy. For all the talk in 2018 about how companies such as Facebook are guilty of selling our personal information, we, collectively, have been just as bad about giving away far too much information, more than anyone needs or wants to know.
For example, it is lovely that you share cute pictures of your child. 30 variations using every available IG/Snapchat filter is overkill. Another example might be when one is having a bad day and is searching for some emotional support. Fifteen status updates in an hour complaining how horrible one’s life
I am perplexed how people can, on one hand, complain about the responsibility of Facebook and other social media companies protecting our privacy while, at the exact same time, we share more information online than we would ever dream about sharing in person! On one occasion this past year, an adult child complained about something their mother did, tagged their mother in the post, and then dared to get upset when her mom called her out. None of that needed to be online in any way shape or form.
2019 needs to be the year we reconsider what we are sharing, where we are sharing, and how much we are sharing. We already know we’re spending too much time on social media. This would be a good year to cut back.
We Don’t Have To Apologize For Taking Care Of Ourselves
We cannot sufficiently care for others if we are not first caring for ourselves. This realization has always been true but I have observed it hitting home for a lot more people over the past year and if the increase in media related to self care is any indication, we’re not alone in that discovery. Many of us have spent much of the past two years focusing on political, environmental, and social issues that we feel are urgently in need of our attention, and no one is saying that those efforts are misplaced. However, after two nonstop years, most of us are feeling more than a bit exhausted.
Unfortunately, we also feel guilty when we take the time necessary to care for ourselves. When we see needs and responsibilities that appear so dire, to not drop everything and try to fix them goes against our nature. We want to be there for other people. When a friend calls crying at three in the morning, we’re afraid to turn down the two-hour chat that’s forthcoming even when we know we have a major work event the next day. If someone is drunk and needs a ride home, who among us is going to turn them down for any reason? We think of the potential consequences to saying no and jump into action.
2019 is the year we stop apologizing for taking care of ourselves. We set boundaries for when people can call asking for help. We pay for a cab rather than waking the kids to go rescue an irresponsible friend. We turn down after-work drinks so we can hit the gym. We leave parties early so we can be in bed before midnight.
We cannot do good things when we are dead on our feet, our bodies and souls thoroughly depleted. Let taking care of yourself become your top priority and don’t apologize to anyone for the changes that requires.
We Don’t Have To Do Anything That Does Not Make A Difference
There will always be people asking for bits and pieces of our time. There are always places to go, activities wanting our involvement, experiences waiting to be experienced. If nothing else, there’s always something on Netflix one hasn’t binged … yet. However, the question to ask as we go sailing into this year is whether any of it actually makes a difference.
Granted, not everything needs to make a difference. Having downtime is part of that whole taking care of yourself scenario. We need moments when what we do has no impact or relevance on anything else.
At the same time, though, there are too many times when we devote energy and effort to things that we thought would make a difference or perhaps should make a difference only to find out that they don’t. Those are the things we can drop from our lives this year.
Ultimately, 2019 is a good year to stop doing pointless things that get us nowhere, don’t improve ourselves or society, and fail to deliver any positive benefit. There will always be plenty of things keeping us busy even if we remove all the time tumors that obstruct our lives. However, we can stop doing all the things that create chaos, increase the amount of drama, hurt innocent people, and prevent us from being that really cool person we know is inside our body … somewhere.
2019 is the year we take charge of us.