2017: A Year In Review

December 29, 2017

2017 was an interesting year for the majority of us, filled with unexpected highs and lows that have left us completely at the mercy of 2018. This year was definitely a huge year for me in numerous ways. In fact, it was probably the most difficult and trying year of my adolescent life thus far. However, with each trying time comes an important and life-changing lesson, I treasure these lessons and hope that some new found strength will carry me nicely into the new year. 

A lot of mega exciting things also happened this year which I didn’t have the time to blog about thanks to the HSC – if you don’t know what that acronym stands for then you live a blessed life. Seeing as I feel like there is so much to celebrate and share, I wanted to review some of the highlights (books included!) of my 2017 before I kiss the year goodbye. What were some of your 2017 highlights and what are some of your resolutions headed into the New Year? Let’s shine our way through 2018, I have a good feeling about this one. Happy New Year!

> Officially became an American Citizen: Early this year I officially became an American Citizen! I was entitled to do this as my Mom is originally from the States but I had never made it official. This was a really exciting moment which will really assist me in completing one of my main 2018 goals; TO PARTY IN THE USA!!

> The ‘All About Women Festival’: On Sunday the 5th of March I attended the first of many fabulous panels I sat in on in 2017, at the 'All About Women Festival'. The Festival took place at the Sydney Opera House and welcomed many brilliant guest speakers to the stage. I only attended two panels, Nasty Women and Shrill. Nasty Women was a group panel featuring Yassmin Abdel-Magied, Van Badham, and Lindy West (all of whom I was lucky enough to meet after the panel). The Nasty Women panel talked about feminism in the Trump era and the importance of our continued resistance, and the importance of always including, listening to and supporting, women of colour in feminist discourse. The Shrill Panel which I attended later in the afternoon was Lindy West’s very own panel, which was the one I was most looking forward to. At that stage I had read the majority of her memoir and was enjoying it, however, her solo panel completely won me over. She is probably one of the coolest people ever. She is all about Intersectionality, recognising one’s privilege, body positivity and holding oppressors accountable. I left her panel with renewed energy and purpose, I frequently revisit the page of notes I jotted down as she spoke because her wisdom is priceless. It reminds me of the important work left to do. Here are just some of my favourite things Lindy shared with the audience during her panel:

  > When confronting bullies, misogynists and racists, “set boundaries, hold them accountable to them, and don’t give into your impulse to soothe them.”
  > “It’s important to make sure that white women are aware they aren’t activists if they don’t prioritise the marginalised.”
  > Regarding politics, “do the things you leave for other people.”
  > “Don’t dictate to other people what they need.”
  > As someone with privilege, “make sure you police the privileged and don’t leave that responsibility to the marginalised.”

Lindy West, Van Badham, and Yassmin Abdel-Magied.

> The ‘All Hell Breaks Loose’ convention: May 5th marked the start of one of the most exciting four days of my life. After saving up to finance my own flights, accommodation, tickets and photo ops, my sister, mother and I, flew to Melbourne to see the cast of Supernatural at the 'All Hell Breaks Loose' convention. Anyone who either knows me well or follows my twitter page will know that I FREAKING LOVE SUPERNATURAL! I started Supernatural on Netflix in 2015 and finished all eleven seasons (there are now thirteen) in about three months, and had rewatched a decent portion of those seasons by the end of that year. Basically, I hardly left the television but it was worth it. The show easily became my favourite and within like one episode I was already high key obsessed with Sam and Dean Winchester, so meeting them both was actually crazy. It’s safe to say, I freaked out. But no…I didn’t cry (truth), I kept my cool (lie).

Jensen Ackles, my sister, me, and Jared Padalecki.
> Lunch with Jennifer Niven: Another well-known love of mine… is Jennifer Niven books. Jennifer Niven is my favourite author and had been a twitter friend of mine for a while when she announced that she’d be touring down under for the Sydney Writers Festival, the perfect addition to an already crazy line-up. Of course, I was hella excited and snatched up tickets straight away, but my life became so much more exciting when the lovely people at Penguin Teen invited me to join Jennifer at a special blogger’s lunch on the 25th of May. Before I start fangirling, let me just express how completely grateful I am and was for this opportunity. It’s the sort of stuff a bookworm dreams of and to have it made a reality by Jennifer and the Penguin crew, is a blessing! Joining a few of my blogger pals and the lovely Penguin crew, we met Jennifer for an intimate lunch at Barangaroo and it was amazing. I was lucky enough to sit across from Jennifer and she was just lovely. She recognised me immediately and we soon started chatting about all things All the Bright Places (including the upcoming film adaption) and Holding Up the Universe, Supernatural, and Australia. I couldn’t have possibly dreamed of how lovely Jennifer would be in real life. She is so warm and genuine which just makes my appreciation for her and her novels even greater! Jennifer complimented my blog, shared some writing advice with me, and even shared some secret insight on the All the Bright Places movie. Despite meeting in person for the first time, it was like chatting with an old friend and I walked away on cloud nine. Thank you Penguin Teen Australia and Jennifer for an unforgettable memory.

(Left) Clem Ford, Elaine Welteroth, Rupi Kaur, and Jennifer Niven.
> The 'Sydney Writers Festival' (26th – 28th of May): As if May couldn’t get any better, the day after lunching with Jennifer Niven, I began my three days of glory at the Sydney Writers Festival. On Friday, I kickstarted the weekend with three fabulous panels, 'Writing Race', Elaine Welteroth on 'Editing Teen Vogue', and Roxane Gay on 'Difficult Women'. While all three were fantastic, Elaine Welteroth’s was just so valuable. As an avid magazine reader and collector, and longtime fan of Teen Vogue, this was essentially the panel of my dreams. 

Elaine Welteroth is the definition of a boss lady and the work she does is so very important, she has forever changed the legacy and direction of Teen Vogue in a way that deserves constant recognition. As the first African-American beauty director at Teen Vogue, she has expanded the magazine’s focus from mostly beauty and entertainment to include politics, body positivity and self-care. Interestingly enough, Welteroth was one of the only panellists who didn’t have a book signing afterwards, which as you can imagine, crushed my dreams of meeting and thanking her in person. However, there’s more to that story to be shared later :D I did, however, very briefly meet author Roxane Gay at her signing. In all honesty, despite loving her books and thoroughly enjoying her panel, for reasons, our meeting left me feeling quite disappointed. But I respect her contribution to the feminist movement regardless. 

The next day I headed to Parramatta to sit in on two of the #AllDayYA panels, the first of which I was admittedly late for after a ticket mixup at the box office. I caught maybe the last half an hour of the ‘Diversity in YA’ panel before then going to Jennifer Niven’s ‘Talking Tough Topics’ panel, which as you can imagine, I also loved. That night I then drove back into the city and watched Hera Lindsay Bird and Rupi Kaur do some spoken word poetry at their ‘Viral and Verse’ panel – now this was seriously engaging. Rather than being hosted by a journalist or another author, the two ladies actually asked each other their own questions, starting a candid and comfortable conversation before sharing snippets of their poetry. I’d never heard of Hera before but she was hilarious, has the best kiwi accent ever and is really talented. Rupi Kaur, I had, of course, heard of, hence why I bought the ticket. She is some sort of goddess I am sure and I could listen to her read poetry all day. I got to meet her after her panel and she is so humble and lovely in person, as you can see on my face in the above photo, I was very happy. 

On the last day of the festival, my schedule was a lot less hectic with all of my panels taking place in the same building. First I went to 'Sex, Blood and Death' which featured Rupi Kaur, Brit Bennett, Viola Di Grado and Sofija Stefanovic. The panel was really interesting, however, I’d be lying if I said the panel had my full attention. So…back to that story from earlier. During 'Sex, Blood, and Death' I had my 3G on and was live tweeting when I got a twitter notification from Elaine Welteroth who was also live-tweeting the panel, which could only have meant one thing. So, of course, I silently freaked out and scanned the audience for her remarkable head of hair which thankfully made it easy for me to spot her at the back of the audience. 

Being as lame as I am, I tore out a page from the shabby notebook I’d been using to take notes on and wrote down my name, blog link and social media details. I excitedly texted my mom, attempted to find my cool and then as soon as the panel was over, casually (although it likely didn’t look casual at all) walked over to Elaine as she started to leave – I swear, this reads weirder than it really was. Whilst I was slightly shaky and probably out of breath, I asked for a minute of her time and began a spiel about how awesome I thought she was and how I loved what she has done for Teen Vogue and how I would love to write for her someday and yadda yadda yadda. When I finally gave her the chance to speak, she was lovely and had listened to me the whole time. I then told her how it was extra wonderful to meet her, the first black beauty director at Teen Vogue because my Grandmother in the US had been the first black fabrics editor at Vogue Magazine in 1979. We then exchanged hypotheticals about me interviewing my grandmother about that for Teen Vogue, which obviously made me die of happiness. She gave me her email and I’m still waiting for word back but even if nothing comes of it, just her interest in a potential piece means everything. I’m really grateful for the time of day that she gave me and continue to hold that moment near and dear. 

The last two panels of the festival included all-around badass Clementine Ford at her ‘Fight Like A Girl’ panel and ‘Deliberate and Afraid of Nothing’ featuring Brit Bennett, Elaine Welteroth, and Durga Chew-Bose hosted by Yassmin Abdel-Magied. Seeing Clem Ford was something I had been anticipating for ages as I had missed out on tickets to her panel at the earlier ‘All About Women Festival',  but it was definitely worth the wait. If you haven't read her feminist manifesto/memoir ‘Fight Like A Girl’ then drop everything your doing and read it now, it’s one of the best books on contemporary feminism you’ll ever read. I love how self-aware she was during her panel and noticed that she was constantly making a note of her privilege and how that differentiates her experiences from women of colour's. She did a brilliant job at being intersectional. 

The last panel, ‘Deliberate and Afraid of Nothing’ was so useful and reaffirming for me. As a biracial teenager, my experiences as a light skin person of colour living in Australia are definitely very different to that of a white Australian but also separate to that of a darker skinned or more visible person of colour. Hearing from a panel of strong and successful women of colour who don’t have the privilege that I do, was both comforting and eye-opening as I found both similarities and differences that none the less, connected us as women of colour. It was an amazing way to end an incredibly resourceful, educational and empowering weekend. 

> Completed challenging projects: For my final year of school as a part of my English Extension 2 and Society and Culture courses (respectively), I dedicated a huge portion of the year to complete two major projects. For my Society and Culture project, I did a 4000-word investigation on a topic of my choice that aligned with our syllabus, mine was titled ‘Feminism; *terms and conditions apply’ and examined the exclusion of black women from the feminist movement. Personally, as a total nerd for this sort of thing, aside from the project being 40% of my final course mark, I honestly would have done this in my spare time. Completing such a lengthy and in-depth investigation really allowed me to develop my writing, researching and interviewing skills whilst completely enriching my worldview and perception of the feminist movement. I put a lot of hard work into it and am really proud to have received a really high mark on the final report. I’m hoping to share some of its content on my blog in the coming year as part of a feature on feminism. Hopefully, you guys like it!

My other project was a 6000-word creative writing piece with a 1,500-word reflection statement. This was a challenging and at times incredibly frustrating experience. It was confronting and difficult, I can't count how many times I wanted to give up. I had never before committed to such a lengthy piece of writing, let alone showed it to someone open to constant criticism. Writing my story sometimes felt like cutting myself open and exposing myself to the world as I chose a deeply personal and controversial topic to write about. My story was called ‘Mixed Rage’ and explored the personal significance of being biracial in a world that inherently tries to be simply black or white, as inspired by my own experiences. I discussed race-related issues such as white privilege, micro aggressions, police brutality and cultural appropriation. As difficult as it was to write and then actually share such a piece, it is something I am immensely proud of. If anything, 2017 taught me that sometimes we have to write ourselves into existence. Often our society alienates each other based on differences, often through categorizing and labelling those we don’t fully understand or feel that we can’t control. These differences are essential to who we are and dictate our lived experiences. Therefore, only we can take control of the narrative that truly defines us. CHEESE CENTRAL!

> Completed Chris Pine's Filmography: Ok this one is on the list for entertainment purposes purely, but after watching Wonder Woman (which I freaking loved) I suddenly realised how much I loved Chris Pine which meant I, of course, had to binge watch his entire (okay maybe not the entire thing, I’d say 85% of it) filmography. This got me through a really hard month and was highly satisfying, not just because of his beautiful baby blues, but because he is actually a really versatile actor with some great films under his belt. 10/10 would recommend, hit me up if you want advice on how to best tackle such a beast. 

> Meeting Janet Mock at Antidote: In September I met one of my favourite feminist activists of all time, Janet Mock. I could spend hours and hours gushing over her keynote presentation, I feel like attendance should have been mandatory for every human being ever. As a trans woman of colour, it’s so important that her experiences are heard. Her words of wisdom are honestly life-changing. I think I gained a bazillion brain cells just by being in the audience. I left her talk feeling like a badass ready to singlehandedly dismantle the patriarchy. Meeting her and likely embarrassing myself (notice a pattern here) was icing on the cake, even if our selfie looks like it was taken on a potato. Honestly, 2017 really was the year of meeting all of the best people.  

Me and Janet Mock.

> Graduated high school and completed my HSC: Despite this being the biggest thing on the list, it honestly took all of my time, energy, and spirit to do this one so I don't feel like dedicating a paragraph to this monster, IT'S ALL READY TAKEN ENOUGH FROM ME! But all all-nighters aside, I did it!! 

> The Date A Book 'YA Bloggers Night': Once November rolled in, so did the prestigious Date A Book 'YA Bloggers Night'. The event was ridiculously fun and reminded me of why I love reading and blogging so much. It was so lovely to see my blogger and Hachette friend's who I hadn't seen during the year and to hear from some best-selling Authors. Thank you Date A Book/Hachette for having us! 

> Blog makeover: As you may or may not have noticed, after months of inactivity on the blog, the always wonderful Kelly from Diva Booknerd worked on a beautiful new look for my blog to reign in a new era. I am SO grateful! She is a gem of a human being and I am so appreciative of her friendship, support and incredible design skills.

If you're at this point in the post, congratulations. This was a really long post but I hope it makes up for my negligence during the year. I just feel like to many exciting things happened, not to mention it. Before I sign off, because I am a total bookworm, here are my five picks for the best 2017 book releases:

'The Hate U Give' by Angie Thomas, 'Always and Forever, Lara Jean' by Jenny Han, 'The Upside of Unrequited' by Becky Albertalli, 'When Dimple met Rishi' by Sandhya Menon, and 'The Princess Saves Herself in This One' by Amanda Lovelace.

PS. Let's all admit that Rihanna rapping in N.E.R.D.'s 'Lemon' really was the best thing of 2017.

What you may have missed last on A Sunny Spot: Growing Pains - Confessions of a wannabe wonderkid.

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