To say that this has been a watershed last few months is putting it lightly. From Brexit to Syria, to the election in the United States, there have been monumental, often devastating, and highly unexpected changes affecting people’s lives in many different ways. Most of these changes have been met with a strange mix of emotions, vaguely summarised as anxiety and anger, and to many of my American friends, a feeling of hopelessness.
I’m fortunate in the sense that, while I am an American, living in Dubai means I have been somewhat removed from the heart of it all. More than ever I am so grateful that the UAE is fortunate enough to have leadership that everyone supports, because it creates a sense of solidarity. But while I might be outside of direct political and social unrest, that doesn’t mean that I’m not unsettled by it.
More than any political affiliation, I believe in love over hate and treating others with respect. The rise of hate crimes in the United States (and in other countries as well) against so many groups of people is heartbreaking to say the least. The instability of the market is nerve-wracking. The uncertainty of foreign relations is charged with tension.
UNITY. While countries and people may feel more divided than ever, there is an element of unity that can come from crisis. In times of crisis, people are often brought closer. Crisis has a way of wiping out all the petty disputes and reaffirming our core values. It can remind us of the good and the good people we have in our lives, and to be thankful for it. And this can make us stronger in our fight for what is right.
THE HEROES. From crisis, true heroes rise, at times, seemingly out of nowhere. Sometimes we already know about them – sometimes we don’t. But the thread that ties them all together is regardless of background or expertise, they put themselves on the line in the name of what’s right. From lesser-known police chiefs and government officials who stand up against larger forces to protect their citizens, to pop culture celebrities who risk losing their audience to fight against injustice, or the everyday person who puts their personal struggles aside to speak out on behalf of those who are unheard. No matter how bleak, they refuse to give up and insist upon being heard. All of these people remind us that no matter who you are or what your situation, you can make a difference.
STRENGTH. You don’t know what you stand for until someone threatens it, and you don’t know how strong you are until someone challenges it. That’s not always a bad thing, so long as you can rise to the occasion. And from my perspective, I truly believe we can.
My hope for 2017? It starts with a reminder: you are your own world. We may be global, but all global experiences start with the individual. And so I urge you all to create the most beautiful world you can. Be kind to yourself. Be kind to others. Remember that you matter. Find your strength and hold onto it. Stand up for those who are not as strong as you. Make choices that benefit the world you live in and not just the choices that benefit you.
And while it may get worse before it improves, my hope for the world, and especially for 2017, is to be able to open and maintain a dialogue. Seek to be the bigger person. Listen to those who do not share the same values as you and try to understand where they are coming from. One thing I’ve learned from my job is that real conversations start with listening. But at the same time, do not give up. Do not be silent. Be resilient in fighting for what you believe in. Encourage those around you who are doing the same. Don’t let fear get the best of you, as the most damaging actions are usually rooted in fear. And choose compassion – it’s the most unifying force there is.
This article originally appeared in the December 2016 of Harper's Bazaar Arabia