Thank F*ck 2016 Is Over

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This year, I have often returned to JK Rowling’s words about failure at dark times in her life: “[It] meant a stripping away of the inessential.”

It felt like a lot of things I valued were stripped away from me this year, and I know that my community has been feeling that on a national and international level, too. Fuck, what a year. But I’m going to silver-lining this shit for a minute so bear with me.

I think the reason dystopian fiction has resonated with me since my teens is that I yearned to punch through the glossy carapace of politeness and routine that seemed to encase screaming unfairness all around me. I wanted permission to fight for my values, to suspend the regular schedule and get down to the work of saving the world. In Tomorrow When The War Began the high school kids go from worrying about what to do after Year 12, to worrying about the survival of their friends and family.

“I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than I was and began diverting all my energy into finishing the only work that mattered to me.” – JK Rowling, Harvard Commencement Address, 2008.

When I became disabled, most of my resources were stripped away from me. Money, time, energy, brainpower. I like to think that it has made me leaner and more focused. I got serious about my writing career; now that I couldn’t work a full-time day job in admin “just for a while, just to save some money”, there was no other time for me to start being a writer. My illness keeps mortality right up in my face. I can’t be distracted.

This year, this horrible year, has been like watching my first year of disability happen to a whole community. Everyone feeling gut-punched, in grief, but sure that soon it will go back to normal. And then it doesn’t. And you slowly realise that life is going to be harder from now on.

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But – and here’s the questionable silver lining – this is the time to divert all our energy into the work that matters to us. At least we need not fear apathy, because we’re not going to have the opportunity for it. There is plenty of work to do, all of it meaningful.

On the theme of stripping away inessential facades, in 2016 I quietly came out as queer. Not with a bang, but with a “oh btw I’m bi, so, yep.” After a very painful break-up this year, I don’t even know if I’ll date again any time soon, so it felt strangely anti-climactic to come out when I’m single and not looking. But I’ve learned from my wonderful queer friends over the past few years that it isn’t so much about who you are or aren’t ‘doing it’ with, it’s about who you are. And ‘straight’ doesn’t fit comfortably on me. It never did, but when I was younger I didn’t feel ‘queer enough’ to claim queerness. I’m glad to now be in the company of friends who don’t police my identity in that way. It feels good to be able to express my whole self, and shake off the biphobia I experienced in my teens.

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2016 has well and truly cracked the carapace that some of us still had around reality. All kinds of hate- and greed-fuelled dangers are spilling out of hiding. But at least there is this: you have been given permission to fight. Banality no longer holds any promise of reward.

We have work to do.

 

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Dear Minister Hunt

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This is a letter I have just emailed to Environment Minister Greg Hunt, regarding the news that he has approved a massive dredging project at Abbot Point – putting the Great Barrier Reef in danger. I contacted him via GetUp! – see here for more information.

 

Dear Minister Hunt,

I grew up in Cairns, QLD, and played on the Great Barrier Reef as a child. We were always so careful not to touch the coral, to respect the wildlife, because we knew how important it was to protect our Reef.

My father has always working in the mining industry, and it was he who instilled in me a deep love and respect for the environment. This is not a “mining vs. the environment” issue – this is a short-term thinking vs. long-term thinking issue.

Humankind has been fervently mining fossil fuels for only around three hundred years, and we’ve burned through those fuels at an alarming rate. The world’s population has grown by a billion just while I’ve been alive. How long do you think the profits from this dredging project will last? A couple decades? One lifetime? The Great Barrier Reef has been around for 6,000 years and will continue for thousands more if we just let it.

I know you’re probably under immense pressure from the mining industry to let them “develop” this World Heritage Area. (To be frank, I find that word “develop” suspect – it smacks of “terra nullius”, of the assumption that this space is a static void just waiting for us to intervene. If you’ve swum on the Reef, you know that it is anything but static and void.)

Please remember who the government is meant to serve. No doubt there’s an argument that the profits from this dredging project would trickle down through the mining industry and benefit many Australians. But surely this argument is outweighed when the Australians in question are specifically asking you not to do this. Please listen to us. We know what we want. We want you to protect our Reef.

I look forward to hearing that the decision to dredge at Abbott Point has been revoked.

Yours sincerely,

Kaitlyn Plyley

 

If you, too, feel strongly about this, you can find Minister Hunt’s contact details on the GetUp! website.