I’ll fess up: the reason we don’t have the first half of our Best of 2016 booklists up is totally my fault. In the past two weeks, I broke my foot and Renata got pneumonia. On the last possible day we could have recorded part one, Renata had juuuuust about recovered enough to record. I, on the other hand, did Something Stupid with my broken foot and had to spend two hours not moving on the living room couch.
Sorry! But, never fear–I would never leave you without #content on a WBS Monday.
2016 has been a garbage fire of epic proportions. Editor Becca claims that, in her view, every year people say the next year will be the one where the bad things stop and it’s never true. That’s not really my experience. I had a spate of bad years in a row, but generally I go back and forth. 2016 even seemed like it might be a good year for me at the start of it! It’s hard to call it a good year with the way it ended, though, as I’m sure we all can agree :\
That doesn’t mean it was all bad, though. For one thing, we read a lot of good books that you’ll be hearing about in two weeks! But even beyond that, I had good experiences that I’ll remember for a long time. (Would I have given up every single one of these experiences for a different outcome in the election–well. Yes. But that’s another post.) So, for your reading pleasure, in an effort to shine a little light into the last days of 2016, here are my Top Ten Good Things About 2016, in roughly chronological order.
1) Back-Up Bunnies
I saw Star Wars: The Force Awakens about nineteen years after everyone else because I wanted to wait to see it with my dad. When I finally saw it, a lot of the internet had moved on, but a few people I knew were still waiting to see it, so I didn’t want to talk about it on Twitter. On a whim, I started a group chat with three of my friends whom I had been talking to about various Star Wars things. We talked about Star Wars and Hamilton and then life things and slowly, we started talking a lot. Like, every day. Constantly. About everything.
These three ladies have been my rock in 2016. Through every good thing and every bad thing, I’ve had this built-in sounding board. It’s so strange to me to think that, though we were all friends at this time last year, the friendship that we’ve created hadn’t yet started. We’ve helped each other through major life issues, through queer issues, through issues with other friends and relationships. The queer issues alone–I’m very confident in my sexuality and have been since I was a teenage, but this year I’ve Felt Very Gay, for some reason. Like “Being Gay” could have been another number on this list. And even though most of my friends are queer, having these three ladies in my pocket to vent to and talk to has been invaluable. Their friendship has also been one of my rocks since the election. We check in every day, now, to remind each other take our meds and eat and hydrate. There are so many things in 2016 that we’ve helped each other through and my life is so much richer for it. Sarah, Andrea, Katie: Thanks for being there. You’re the best thing that happened to me in 2016.
Hamilton was one of the best things that happened to me in 2015, too, but it’s enduring, okay? Not to mention, 2016 was the year I finally got to see it live. (If you are unfamiliar with my sad Hamilton story, after choosing to turn down two invitations to see it at the Public due to financial reasons, I had tickets to see it in August 2015 and for various reasons, couldn’t go and ended up selling them.) Uh, I got to see it live more than once, even, which I know immediately puts me on some people’s hit lists. It’s strange, being so involved in one particular show again. Renata and I met through our obsessive, repeat viewing of Rent as teenagers, so being back in a similar place to that mindset–knowing everything about every cast member, having “favorites” for various roles, posting long critical reviews comparing performances–is kind of surreal.
As a phenomenon, it’s been a thrill to watch and given me hope for the future. As a piece of art, it’s inspiring and mesmerizing. As a community, it’s been sweet and warm and fun. The Hamilton Mixtape got me through the weeks following the election. The show itself was a highlight of my year. I’ll definitely never forget sitting in the Rodgers, watching that cast take the stage, sobbing and gasping and falling even more in love with each cast member and each character and each song. I’m honestly a changed person because of this show and I’m so happy it exists.
3) Space Wedding
Two of my longtime friends got married in April of this year, and it was maybe the greatest wedding I’ve ever attended. It was sweet and low-key and nerdy and fun. I spent a long weekend with so many people I loved–not just the brides, but Editor Becca, friend of the podcast Sarah and her husband, WBS Evangelists Ivy and Scott, and a host of other folks.
Adding to the magic of the day–and it was seriously magical–was the fact that this wedding, which I had literally had on my calendar for five years, was actually legal in the eyes of the government, something that was not guaranteed or even expected when the date was set way back when. I cry at weddings anyway, but it felt like such a personal win seeing two people I love so much proclaim their love for each other while knowing that love was recognized by the law.
In 2016, my buddy Lisa started hosting a monthly Crafternoon at her apartment. The general idea was that we’d all go to her place and hang out and work on various projects–knitting, making t-shirts, making costumes for conventions, writing, cross stitch, coloring, whatever. We’d sit around and drink and eat and talk, mostly, and it ended up being a wonderful thing to have on the calendar. Not to be all “my life is so hard, I’m too pretty and popular!” but I’m busy a lot. It’s really hard for me to make plans to see my friends unless there’s something concrete on the horizon. Having an excuse to just go hang out with my buddies was so great. I saw people so much more often this year and I’m super excited that Crafternoons are continuing in 2017!
My birthday weekend just happened to coincide with the release of the third new X-Men trilogy movie, which was very good timing indeed. The movie itself turned out to be a bit of a clunker, but my buddies Erica and Laura came to visit for the long holiday weekend and we had a blast hanging out and being fangirls and going to museums and all sorts of stuff. I tried to be low-key for my actual party–2016 was my Champagne Birthday (meaning I turned 31 on the 31st), so people came over and we drank champagne and played Drawful and watched stupid things on television and generally had a nice time. It was wonderful to be surrounded by so many people I loved, especially people I don’t get to see that often!
Ghostbusters was the canary in the coal mine for the end of 2016 in a lot of ways, but this is a positive list, not a negative one, so instead of talking about that, I’m going to talk about how LIFE CHANGING Ghostbusters was for me. I knew going into it that it would be cool to see a funny movie on a topic near and dear to me starring four women over 30, but jesus, I didn’t even realize the impact until I was sitting there watching it. I kept waiting for a fat joke, for a love interest, for the sort of garbage I’ve come to expect from Hollywood, and that wasn’t what I got at all. Instead, I got to watch a bunch of awesome women–including a fat woman and a lesbian!–battle the bad guys in totally normal and functional costumes, behave competently, and win. Not only that, but seeing how the struggles of women were built into every part of the movie–the antagonist being a cranky white man who’s upset more people don’t pay attention to him, the way their work is downplayed and ignored, the way they’re dismissed by so many people as “crazy women”–was so refreshing to see, in a sad sort of way. It was, if nothing else, an acknowledgement that these things happen and people see it and they’re real struggles. But, gosh, just seeing those four funny ladies kick ass and be hilarious, seeing female friendship shown as the core relationship of a film–the whole thing meant a lot to me.
Also, Kate McKinnon.
7) Dungeons & Dragons
Funnily enough, I’m probably the person in my friends group the least into Dungeons and Dragons these days. The bug hit a lot of people all at once, and I think I can track it back to the podcast The Adventure Zone and the webseries Critical Role, but I can’t be sure. The important part is that a lot of people I know were suddenly confident enough to give D&D a whirl. We all admitted that it was something that had always intrigued us, but that we felt self-conscious about talking to strangers (ie: nerd men) about getting started, so we never pursued it. But in July, a group of my local friends decided to just go for it and start playing.
Like I said, I’m not as super into it as my friends, but I do really enjoy playing! It stretches a different kind of storytelling muscle and it’s so refreshing to just be bad at something. Because I am! I mean, maybe “bad” is too harsh–I’m used to starting nerd shit only after reading and memorizing every rule book and practicing on my own until I’m secure I know everything. Nerd Dude Gatekeeping is real and it’s stressful. But I play D&D with a bunch of my lady friends who don’t think less of me when I say, “Okay, sorry, I know I should know this, but how do I roll for that? A d20 plus my Dexterity modifier? Does that make sense?” or “Okay, if I’ve leveled up, does that mean I get a new spell? Or more hit points? What do I do?”
I ask “what do I do now?” a lot and almost more than all the other stuff I love about it–the storytelling, the hilarious antics of my friends, the five hours a month I spend hanging out with ladies I love–that’s the best takeaway for me. It’s okay to not be great at things. It’s okay to just sit back and have fun.
8) The Ghosthunters AU
Okay, this is gonna get a bit esoteric for people who aren’t into online fandom, but I can’t make a list without including it. Back in November 2015, on a whim, I started writing a Hamilton alternate universe fanfiction where the gang–Hamilton and Laurens and Lafayette and Mulligan and the Schuyler sisters–live in a world where ghosts are a documented phenomenon and they study them academically. (Believe it or not, this barely registers on the “weird” scale when it comes to fanfiction.) I intended this to be a short little thing I would whip out as a treat for someone at Yuletide, but it very slowly started to take over my life. It became the only thing I worked on for months and months. It split into two separate stories and then three. It grew and grew and I fell in love with the world and the story and the characterizations, but none of my friends were really into the fandom or pairing I was writing about. I’m used to writing things with a big community of people I can bounce ideas off of and share works in progress with, and the silence and loneliness of working on it by myself started to get to me.
But then! In August! I basically finished it! And in September I started posting it! And people liked it! People liked my stupid ghosthunting grad school AU! I still have so much more to finish–I posted the first 130,000 words of about 300,000 that I have written and still need to finish and edit–but having it out in the world, complete and well-received, feels like such an accomplishment. My dumb story about dumb asshole boys in love and their weird world of ghosts and science and making dumb mistakes is out there and people like it! I know it’s not cool to openly love your own work this much, but I love it so much and I’m so happy other people do too!
Okay, this one you all know! In the spring, Renata and Becca and I started vaguely talking about launching a Patreon campaign. As Renata started to plan her move to Boston, we got a little more serious about those conversations, and we finally launched in September. It’s such a weird thrill to be able to say, “Yes, I do a podcast with my buddies and people even give us money because they like it so much!” It feels like such an accomplishment to know that this was something we wanted to do and have managed to maintain for over two years now. Thanks to everyone who’s pledged to us or shared the link or even just listens regularly without pledging–just knowing people like the show is its own kind of satisfaction.
10) Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812
In December of 2015, my buddy Naomi and I went to see Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812 at the American Reparatory Theatre in Cambridge. I’m a fan of a lot of the stuff that the ART has been putting on since I’ve moved here in 2010, but Great Comet was like nothing I’d ever seen. It may have even beat out the recent Broadway revival of Pippin that started at ART. It’s a fantastic, immersive experience where you’re surrounded by the actors and story in a beautiful, lush set, really pulled into the whole thing. We liked it so much we saw it twice in Cambridge and were thrilled to hear that it was transferring to Broadway in 2016.
At the ART, we were lucky enough to sit on stage and decided that we had to shell out big bucks to sit on stage on Broadway at least once. We had to. So we spent *mumblemumble* on tickets and waited patiently for the months to go by and finally, finally got to walk into the Imperial Theatre and take our seats on stage and watch this amazing, magical show happen all around us. It’s hard to describe this show in words that do the experience justice, but, my god, it was a balm on my post-election soul. Beautiful and sad and perfect and just what I needed in a world that I was so, so scared to face. It gave me hope–for the future, for the present, for my own wellbeing and sanity. I’m going to cling to that hope as we enter the unknown future of 2017 and I hope that you, too, can dig into your 2016 memories and find a bit of light to bring with you into the year to come.