Saturday, December 31, 2016

2016: What were you and where am I?

As the New Year approaches, I am at a bit of a loss for words.

Partly, I have been experiencing a bit of burnout the past few weeks after a 10-week quarter in which I wrote more than 50 pages worth of analytical material on planning history and theory and transportation policy.  

Even more broadly, 2016 has been an exceptionally surreal year, punctuated by unexpected and cataclysmic events that have been difficult to explain or to minimize out of my daily routine of existence.

The election of Donald Trump, the "Brexit" referendum results, the sabotage of the American election by Russian spies. Just like the string of celebrity deaths in the past week, these events numb one with shock (Listening to Obama's and Hillary's speeches in the back of an Uber on the morning of November 9th came the closest I have felt to living a hallucination).

But since my future career (as a Transportation planning and policy student) entails working with or on behalf of local governments the great "political" events or very much personal. If the Trump administration cuts off federal support for public transportation (and redirects such funding towards private toll roads) or strangles LA's wholesale sector by imposing tariffs, then not only will my job opportunities but the ideals I aspire towards in my career suffer a set back.  

Once upon a time, I shunned "Identity Politics" and though that racism did not affect me. I have evolved  a great deal since then, but until this November I did not feel as if my personal existence, as an American with Chinese ancestry, was threatened. Watching a middle-aged white male yell at an Asian undergrad to "go back to your own country," in the middle of my campus's Court of Sciences, shattered my blissful contentedness.

Sharing an Uber (back in March, believe it or not!) with a young man who complained about "Islam" and "cuck-servatism". Consoling a teary-eyed stranger in an Uber on election night.                          

Even watching the cities I had visited in Europe a few years back suffer both jihadi terrorist attacks and far right political rallies sent shivers up me.

For all the catastrophes that have shaped the world around me, however, I have been fortunate to have made good friends a part of my return to school. I have also managed to reconnect with a number of people from my undergrad days and earlier (particularly through the Olive Tree Initiative). It is in times like these that these personal connections matter most.

This is also the year that I first felt "old" in more than a relative sense. A few crazy nights back in February (which resulted in me getting a fever) revealed a liver that lacked its youthful pep. Having lost my uncle and a close friend in the previous year, I have given a lot more thought to my mortality. I officially reached a quarter century in age.

Time does not stand still but it does not necessarily progress or retreat.

That is my story of 2016.