A lot of people want to toss 2016 into the garbage chute, and with good reason. There’s been political corruption, gender and racially-based violence and international terrorism. We have a Soggy Cheeto as president-elect and too many of our cultural touchstones have seemingly gone to the planet David Bowie is trying to colonize.

But I’m unwilling to chuck this year like that, even if it’s for two small yet meaningful reasons: I’ve watched the tragedies of this year bring together people who wouldn’t normally even know each other. And, I became a successful full-time freelance writer.

I spent my summer traveling around North Carolina after the passage of House Bill 2 (“The Bathroom Bill”) in April. There were days of lobbying in Raleigh capped off with evenings of tzatziki-enrobed falafels at Taverna Agora. A round table of radical queers at the beloved Italian restaurant Vincenzo’s in Winston-Salem for bottomless spaghetti night. Dirty South Nachos from Crafted – The Art of Taco. Oh and I can’t forget the baklava cheesecake, also at Taverna Agora. (I’m sorry I’m making this so much about food.)

Ready to canvas for equality!

A post shared by Joanne Spataro (@lookitsjoanne) on

I even hosted one particular community event in my home: One of Senator Jeff Jackson’s Community Conversations. You wouldn’t believe how many pistachio and chocolate chip dipped cannolis I bought for the occasion, but Jeff only ate the salted caramel brownie from Amelie’s. Anyway, he spoke to about 15 of us about where the Assembly was headed. I don’t think he could have predicted the city council and assembly rumble this month.

Of course, there were still people who saw this year’s tragedies as happening somewhere or to someone else. Their worldviews were set like the majestic granite island countertop of the gay couple I brunched with in Seattle: You could knock on it and all that came back was a hard, solid sound. There were people, even as 2016 showed us the true depth of racism, transphobia and homophobia in our country, that said it was still better to lay low than resist, when resistance is our best tool against oppression for 2017.

I hope they take to heart a phrase I heard throughout the year at every protest, rally and speaking engagement: Until we’re all free, none of us are free.

And speaking of freedom, my first six months as a full-time freelance writer brought me a flood of firsts: Playing a musical gig at a feminist bookstore in NYC. Making out with my girlfriend Lara in front of The Stonewall Inn. Traveling to the West Coast for the first time, where I learned Portland has a mean doughnut scene that rivals Charlotte’s. I wrote national level articles about chasing the KKK and the toll activism takes on your body. My most popular article of the year was ranking the best nachos in Charlotte, bringing me acclaim and I’m assuming next year’s Pulitzer Prize.

For 2017, I’ll build on the community and experiences of 2016. My biggest goal is not to be a human woman, as it was last year, but to be a fully-actualized woman. I plan to get better at the drums and spend time on the road as a rock and roll copywriter. If that doesn’t exist yet, you’re about to find out what that looks like. And it will include nachos.

 

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