2016 Doesn’t COMPLETELY Suck (No…Really!)

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This year has been…less than optimal…in many ways, especially if you closely follow politics; add in a viral outbreak, the ongoing mess(es) in the Middle East, terror attacks at home and abroad and the passing of some beloved public figures and entertainers. It doesn’t end there, but well, you get the idea. I really try to be a positive person, try to focus on the good in my life and ignore the negatives for reasonable periods of time in the interest of my mental and physical health. This year has been a challenge. I’ve caught myself mumbling under my breath, and often louder, “thank goodness for the Cubs.” I know it can’t erase all of the other terrible things going on in the world, but sports and other diversions really do help people manage their sanity. It may not be baseball for you, but I bet there’s something in your life that helps you cling to hope.

And so, as the Cubs started another promising season, one that would culminate in their second run for the playoffs in two years and possibly their first World Series championship in over a century last weekend, I felt excitement and hope and happiness among all the madness that is 2016. Recently, I reflected on my feelings when the season started (which I wrote about -and probably OVER-shared…sorry, but did I mentioned I’ve been EXCITED about this ALL year?) and the way their season has often cheered me up over the past several months. This also prompted me to reflect on other things I found encouraging this year. Here are just a few:

Hey you guys, the Cubs are really good!

It’s common knowledge for anyone who follows baseball even casually that the Chicago Cubs have not won a World Series in 108 years. Before last year it had been eight years since they had made it as far as their league’s division series. But the 2015 season was a pleasant head start on what fans and management expected to be a great 2016 season. And guess what: 2016 has been a fantastic year. The Cubs finished the regular season with 103 wins – the best record in all of Major League Baseball. They also have some great people in the dugout and the front office whose stories are worth seeking out (see: Joe Maddon’s managing style and David Ross’ retirement tour in particular). Their drive to break the drought continues Saturday night in Chicago. Go Cubs Go!

Medical advancements in the US are kind of amazing!

From advancements in spinal cord injury recovery to transplants that sound like science fiction to assistance from artificial intelligence in fighting disease, the last few years have been pretty remarkable for medical progress. The leaps and bounds we’ve made this year alone include an exoskeleton that can do the walking for paralyzed individuals, further impressive improvements for the most adorable (hand!!) transplant recipient you’ve ever seen, a 7 year old cancer survivor who has a very cool prosthetic eye and a story that will bring a tear to yours, and an impressive step in the fight against cancer which uses artificial intelligence to evaluate tests and catch details human doctors might miss. (I’ll save my reservations about our robot overlords for another time.) If you’d like to read about a few more advances during 2016, you can also go here.

The private sector and the free market do good things!

Human innovation and private sector/free markets have given us some of the most remarkable stories of achievement in human history. Private companies are conducting satellite and rocket launches that could rival the work of NASA and are something I never thought I’d see, but yet here we are. And if that wasn’t enough, these innovators have their sites set amazingly high, including a mission to Mars that would blow the mind of my childhood self who followed the shuttle program closely and with complete awe.

Some schools are doing it right, and you may have one in your area!

The unquestioning acceptance of the public school education system as the only game in town finally seems to be truly fading. While private (many of them parochial) schools have been in existence and widely accepted for some time, appreciation for the impact of charter schools is relatively new on the scene. The first charter schools were started in 1974, but they’ve been fighting an uphill battle in many ways ever since. School choice is another way to give parents more control over their children’s education. Even if all the choices are public schools, parents should still have that choice and that sentiment is gaining steam in many areas of the country as well. Some public schools are really good. But families shouldn’t be locked into the bad ones just because of their address. In the meantime, there are around 6800 public charter schools in the US, and they educate roughly 3 million students per year (including my own), often much better than their public school counterparts because they have more control over the decisions that directly impact their student body. Campbell Brown recently appeared on The Fifth Estate Podcast, contributing to one of the best conversations I’ve heard on the subject in recent memory. You can also check out her work on the subject at the74million.org.

These are just a small sampling of what I’ll admit is a somewhat shorter than normal list of reasons to rejoice for a particular year. It’s harder to look on the bright side this year. But it’s a start. I’d love to have you add to the list in the comments, or tweet me @auarora_g96. Please. Seriously. I could still use more reasons to smile.

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