In 2015, my dad and I got phoenix tattoos for my birthday. His is this bright green color and has a flowing shape. Mine is a black outline and symmetrical. We had them designed to match our personalities. My dad had chosen a phoenix for us each to get because he related to it’s mystical powers and thought it would be appropriate for us as we’ve molded into different versions of ourselves throughout the years.
But at the year anniversary of getting my tattoo, I found myself heartbroken. I had thought that upon having my skin soak up the ink, my life would immediately become more gratifying. There were all these changes I expected to happen. There was this ideal version of myself that I had hoped to become, but in the summer of 2016, I found myself in therapy, not writing, and felt victimized for how life’s game had played out for me. This wasn’t how it was supposed to be. I was supposed to get the tattoo and life was going to get magically better. As I was voicing these thoughts to my partner, he reminded me that I was forgetting the most important trait the phoenix represents: rebirth. A phoenix must burn and rise from the ashes to become a new version of it.
2016 was definitely a year of burning for many of us. Beginning primarily with the election and all the celebrity deaths we felt so connected to; we were also witness to so many terrors that made us feel that our world was in fact coming to an end. I know I’m not alone in feeling that 2017 does represent a year of rebirth, now that we’ve finally closed the chapter on 2016. But we need to keep in mind that there are greater challenges facing us as we find our way in this new world. I for one am continuing to find my role in society as a woman, a white privileged woman, who wants to use her voice to help better our society.
The day after the election was one of the roughest days of the year. I remember putting on my makeup like I was preparing for battle; unsure of the world I was walking into. I questioned my idea of feminism and wondered if I was part of the “white feminist movement” ignoring others around me, drinking the “male tears” Kool-Aid and complaining about everything wrong with society instead of doing something about it. I was depressed for a long time. I tried writing about it, but couldn’t put the feeling into words. I attempted to push forward and put the call to action for politicians, and found hope among friends doing the same.
The greatest struggle I had towards the end of 2016 was the balance of staying up to date with all the news but not letting it weigh me down. I wanted to be informed, but found myself having a nightmare of Steve Bannon transforming himself into a shark and feasting on a Muslim family in front my eyes. It is an image I will never be able to get rid of. So I found myself wondering how to care about everything, but not too much so it didn’t cause sleep deprivation. I wish I could tell you that I found an answer to achieving this balance, but it continues to be something to work on. It continues to be a part of this person I have created in my mind, this ideal version of myself I want to be.
After Carrie Fisher’s death last month, I was journaling and wrote down the following: “She is a woman I am continuing to admire and want to live my life a little more like her: with zest and sass, not taking every damn thing so seriously, and tearing down a fascist.” That is what I strive to be more of in 2017. I’m tired of sitting on the sidelines, saying how unfair life can be. I’m tired of not believing in magic and the good in people. I’ve decided I’m going into this year with strength and hope.
Yes, there is this version of me I want to live up to, this version of this woman with the phoenix tattoo I’ve been scared of for far too long. And there is nothing more limiting than doubt. So I pledge right here, right now, to live up to the person I’m meant to be. And I ask that you do the same. Instead of making resolutions this year, let’s make a pact to live up to our full potential. Let’s stand united instead of against each other, and open up the dialogue instead of shutting it down. A new chapter has opened for us and the pages are blank. We have the power to make it anything we want. So let’s not burn the pages of 2017, but hold it up as a symbol for all that we can and will be.