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2018: The year that defied traditional definition

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What a year.

I know that every year we say this, but seriously this time, what a year. I mean, obviously a lot is bound to happen in 365 days (or 365.2425 days if you really want to be precise about it), but it just feels like that more has happened. In January, we had a lunar eclipse. In February, South Korea hosted the Winter Olympics. Also in Korea, their territorial war ended. In Saudi Arabia, women could finally drive; in America, they could continue to share their stories of long-repressed sexual harassment.

But to me, 2018 was different. Whereas other years had their singular defining moments (2017 had the beginning of the #MeToo movement; 2016 had the election of Donald Trump; 2015 the birth of Princess Charlotte, there was no such thing this year.

No one moment that truly made the world stop. Nothing that radically, or originally, shifted our perception of the global community.

But, but,’ I hear you cry.

What about the Thai soccer team, stuck in the cave for 18 days?’

That was the first moment that came to my mind as I too pondered the issue. What eliminates that incident from my thoughts is the extraneous inclusion of Elon Musk, who send his best resources to tackle the issue. At the time, a great show of generosity and thoughtfulness; however, after the domino effect arising from his live marijuana use (which included the loss of his position in charge of Tesla and highly-publicised relationship issues), that moment feels a little hijacked. Cross it off the figurative list.

The football World Cup?

A big moment, sure. That June-July period was intense (not simply because it took nearly as long for Australia to get any decent sort of free coverage). However, after France won, and England got knocked out, who was singing ‘It’s Coming Home’? Who was waiting at The Star or their local at 2:30am for the game? Very few people, that’s who. If the year lasted from June to July 2018, then this would be the defining moment. However, it didn’t.

Okay, surely the response to gun and environment laws across the world. You know, Emma Gonzalez, the climate change rally, all those sorts of events.

The Parkland teens on the cover of TIME. Photograph by Peter Hapak.

Big moments, don’t get me wrong. The Parkland kids were covered in Time magazine for Christ’s sake. However, the thing that dodges the bullet here (no pun intended) is the refusal to actually do anything in response. The 2nd Amendment of the United States constitution (I’d say more famous than the 1st one now) is still in place. The BBC labelled 2018 ‘the worst year for US school shootings’. The Australian Government has taken no outstanding action against climate change (although, with an administration as divided as that one is, that makes a bit of sense). So no, even though such a response was a big moment of 2018, it was not the defining moment.

Now, of course, this is all from my own perspective. For others, any of the moments mentioned already could have changed their world. Perhaps I haven’t mentioned a moment that you or someone else thought was 2018’s keystone. Fair enough – I lived my 2018. The same response sticks for personal or private moments. What defines your 2018 doesn’t necessarily define mine.

What I will argue though, is that in contrast to many previous years, it is a combination of these moments that encapsulated 2018, making this year one of pure struggle.

Photograph by Christiaan Felber.

In 2018, we mourned when people died. This mourning was never collective (even in the case of former American presidents), or limited to one field (in the same year Mac Miller died), so too did Stephen Hawking, but nonetheless we felt overwhelming sadness at these moments.

Politically, the world continued to toil. Donald Trump endured a hellish 2018, to say the least. Malcolm Turnbull had a year comparably as bad, with even his hiatus in New York unable to avoid the spotlight. Theresa May just can’t seem to get Brexit right. 2018 defined politics as a free-for-all.

We were also treated to some rather strange occurrences in pop culture. An entire book could be written on Kanye West’s 2018 exploits, but it can best be defined by this image of him making (what is likely a sweeping generalisation) in a Make America Great Again hat, courtesy of Getty Images and Vanity Fair. Kylie Jenner is as rich as Jay-Z, putting many hardworking college-educated students or professionals to apparent shame. Cardi B had a child with Offset (of the band Migos), then divorced him, and is now publicising her salacious reasons for missing her ex. Turns out even trying to zone out of the real world through entertainment is a lot more difficult than it seems.

Overall, I will struggle to be convinced that one moment defined 2018. Put simply, too many things went on. But I will stand by my idea that a feeling of struggle that captured this year. This whole goddamn year was a struggle, in every aspect of life and in every industry. But the redeeming factor in all this struggle is that we as a society went through it together. Now, as 2018 draws to a close, the very best thing we can possibly do is use of the strength of the struggle to simply keep on going. So struggle on. Because eventually, it’ll all be worth it.