7 lessons for 2017, so we don't make the same big mistakes we made in 2016.

Everything was supposed to get better after 2016.

2017, or so we thought. Photo by Alice Popkorn/Flickr.

When the history books are written, we believed this year would stand apart as uniquely awful. Annus horribilis. The year from hell. Bad things happened to good people. Great people passed away. Hurricanes raged. Fires burned. "Independence Day: Resurgence" failed to capture the magic of the original.


But we hoped, prayed, and frankly, assumed, that on December 31, the sky would open up, angelic choirs would sing, and we would be ushered naked and weeping into the 2017 utopia of our dreams.

Yet, in 2016's final, cruelest twist: It's pretty clear that ain't gonna happen now. At least for a lot of us.

True, Donald Trump's supporters are cracking beers, cueing up old DVR'ed episodes of "Celebrity Apprentice," and settling in for four years of the greatering again of America.

But those people whose lives and values came under threat in the election — Muslims, women, immigrants, people of color, among others — are preparing for a much harder road ahead.

It's easy to look back on all this and feel hopeless and helpless. For so many people around the world, the relief expected at the end of the year won't deliver itself. The thing is, we're not hopeless and helpless. We never were, and we aren't now. The idea that 2016 was simply fated to be horrendous is a myth — one that's more than a little self-serving. And if you look between the cracks, it wasn't all bad.

Indeed, while many of us spent 2016 sitting on our respective couches tweeting about this supposedly inevitably terrible, no good, death trap of a year, others were out working to change the specific, real-life things they thought were bad. And they did! Sometimes for the better, sometimes for worse, but they stopped complaining about how horrible 2016 was, packed their bags, got in the streets, and showed up.

The real lesson of 2016? We can't count on the stuff we don't like to just change on its own.

2016 is almost wrapped, and while it might be too late for a do-over, it's not too late to learn, memorize, and internalize these seven lessons to make sure we don't repeat the same mistakes in 2017.

1. We need to show up and vote.

Yep. This is happening. Photo by Jim Watson/Getty Images.

Say what you want about Donald Trump (I certainly have) — but his victory in November's election shocked the world — including, seemingly, many members of his own staff. After stumbling through three debates, launching feuds with private citizens, and nearly imploding over a leaked "Access Hollywood" tape, his campaign was disorganized, rudderless, and trailing in the polls in nearly every key state.

How did he pull it off? Trump's supporters wanted change, and they showed up and voted in the places where it counted (for what it's worth, nearly 3 million more Hillary Clinton voters showed up nationwide — but had the unfortunate luck to live in the wrong states).

Amid Trump's stunning upset, however, progressives managed to let loose a small ray of hope. In North Carolina, voters showed up and voted to reject a vicious anti-LGBTQ law by firing Gov. Pat McCrory, who signed it.

North Carolina Governor-elect Roy Cooper. Photo by Sara D. Davis/Getty Images.

The groundwork for McCrory's defeat was laid way back in 2013, before the law even passed, by William Barber's Moral Mondays movement, which spent countless hours mobilizing citizens across class, gender, and racial lines to demand economic and social justice. Those citizens marched, organized, showed up, and — three years later, amid the horror of 2016 — won.

2. We need to show up in person.  

Protesters at Standing Rock. Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images.

This lesson wasn't lost on the thousands of people who showed up in person at an isolated Indian reservation in the Dakotas to fight the construction of an oil pipeline on sovereign land and, after months of dedicated protest, won a major concession from the U.S. government.

Nor was it lost on thousands of women in Iceland, who showed up in person to walk off the job in protest of unequal pay and got the world's attention.

Photo by Mark Makela/Getty Images.

Nor was it lost on the hundreds of Americans who showed up in person to rally behind their fellow citizens as hate incidents rose around the country.

A man stood outside a mosque in Dallas holding a sign saying, "You Belong." After an incident where a stranger threatened to light a female student's hijab on fire, students at the University of Michigan showed up to shield Muslim classmates who were praying. Students at the University of Kansas offered to walk their classmates of color to class. In Allen, Texas, a stranger left signs of support outside a local mosque. Churches across America are gearing up to protect immigrant families from abuse.

3. We need to not show up when showing up would mean compromising our values.

Spike Lee. Photo by Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images.

Back in January, director Spike Lee and actor Jada Pinkett Smith announced they would be boycotting the Oscars after no actors of color were nominated in acting categories for the second straight year. Thousands of Twitter users showed up in support with the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite.

In response, the academy ... actually made changes. The organization announced it would expand its board and review members' voting qualifications every 10 years, with the goal of expanding the number of women members and members of color by 2020.

4. We need to show up and do the things we really don't want to do that make us uncomfortable or even embarrassed — for the greater good.

Do you think Barack Obama wanted to make nice, shake hands, and have his picture taken with Donald Trump?

We're all so incredibly happy. Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images.

After the guy questioned Obama's citizenship, savaged his character, and called his 2012 election victory a lie? President Obama could have told Trump to screw off until January — and he would have been more than justified. But he sucked it up and has been giving the guy free presidenting lessons ever since. Not because he wants to — because God knows he almost definitely doesn't — but because he knows America needs its president to have at least a ballpark understanding of what they're doing. That's showing up.

Do you think Mitt Romney wanted to beg Donald Trump — a man he accused of "trickle-down racism" — for a position in his cabinet?

Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images.

Do you think Romney wanted to suck up to Trump for a week and take back all the things he said that he almost surely still believes are true? Do you think he wanted to become a demeaning meme? Of course not. But he did it anyway because he's a dedicated public servant who knows his experience at the State Department would be a critical asset to an administration staffed with policy neophytes with wacky ideas. He probably knew that, in all likelihood, Trump wouldn't nominate him. He probably figured there was a chance the whole charade was concocted to humiliate him.

But he showed up and embarrassed himself on the ludicrously off chance Trump might really give him the job, putting an actual decent, thoughtful, qualified person in charge of one of the most important levers of U.S. foreign policy.

That's really showing up.  

5. We need to show up to experiences that burst our filter bubbles.

Photo by Steve Pope.

Showing up at "Hamilton," probably wasn't what you'd expect from Vice President-elect Mike Pence. As a congressman and governor, Pence was notorious for advancing anti-LGBTQ legislation and likely expected that sitting down to watch a musical about the contributions of immigrants to America's founding on Broadway, a capital of LGBTQ culture, would invite controversy. Sure enough, Pence was greeted by a chorus of boos when he appeared in the theater. And after the curtain call, actor Brandon Victor Dixon addressed the vice president-elect, respectfully, but uncompromisingly, from the stage:

"We, sir — we — are the diverse America who are alarmed and anxious that your new administration will not protect us, our planet, our children, our parents, or defend us and uphold our inalienable rights," Dixon said. "We truly hope that this show has inspired you to uphold our American values and to work on behalf of all of us."

But Pence listened and heard him out. And in a post-performance interview on Fox News, Pence said he "wasn't offended by what was said" and described the pre-show booing as "what freedom sounds like."

The musical probably didn't change Pence's mind on much of anything. And the cast's speech hasn't seemed to shift the vice president-elect's rhetoric on immigration, criminal justice reform, or LGBTQ rights. But Pence stepped out of his comfort zone and listened. He deserves at least some credit for that.  

6. And we need to show up to help other people to burst their filter bubbles.

Beyoncé and the Dixie Chicks at the CMAs. Photo by Nick Diamond/Getty Images.

Despite being the uncontested queen of everyone and everything, Beyoncé's performance at November's Country Music Awards became a lightning rod for fans of the genre. Criticisms ran the gamut from political (she's too liberal!) to aesthetic (she's insufficiently country!) to straight-up racist (black people don't belong in country music).

Here's the thing: Beyoncé can perform anywhere she wants. She's arguably the most famous human on the planet. She didn't need to show up to do a free show for people who mostly want her to go away. But she did it anyway. She did it knowing that the audience wouldn't necessarily be friendly to her. True to form, many weren't.

But many others listened, liked what they heard, and had their minds and tastes expanded. More importantly, their idea of what a country singer can look and sound like was forever changed.

It was a brave move for Beyoncé (and for the Dixie Chicks, who backed up Queen Bey, having been shunned by country audiences for their opposition to the Iraq War over a decade ago). Beyoncé leveraged her massive global fame to send a powerful message for inclusion that resonated with millions of viewers.

7. We need to show up now, when it counts, before it's too late.

Do not deny Prince-from-Beyond! Photo by Kristian Dowling/Getty Images.

We lost a lot of great people in 2016. There will never be another Prince, or David Bowie, or Alan Rickman, or Leonard Cohen, or Gwen Ifill, or John Glenn. But in a way, their passings aren't just tragedies — taken together, they're a call to arms.

Life is fleeting. If we want to make the world a better place, we have to get on it ASAP and show up now — not tomorrow, not a week from now, not in April when things calm down or start to feel normal. We all have limited time on Earth, and it matters, now more than ever, what we do with it.

2016 was a bad year for too many people around the world: We can't just wait, commiserate, post rueful memes, and hope that the next year will be better. We all have to go out and make it so.

2017 is coming, whether we want it to or not. Will it be better?

That's up to us.

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Judy Vaughan has spent most of her life helping other women, first as the director of House of Ruth, a safe haven for homeless families in East Los Angeles, and later as the Project Coordinator for Women for Guatemala, a solidarity organization committed to raising awareness about human rights abuses.

But in 1996, she decided to take things a step further. A house became available in the mid-Wilshire area of Los Angeles and she was offered the opportunity to use it to help other women and children. So, in partnership with a group of 13 people who she knew from her years of activism, she decided to make it a transitional residence program for homeless women and their children. They called the program Alexandria House.

"I had learned from House of Ruth that families who are homeless are often isolated from the surrounding community," Judy says. "So we decided that as part of our mission, we would also be a neighborhood center and offer a number of resources and programs, including an after-school program and ESL classes."

She also decided that, unlike many other shelters in Los Angeles, she would accept mothers with their teenage boys.

"There are very few in Los Angeles [that do] due to what are considered liability issues," Judy explains. "Given the fact that there are (conservatively) 56,000 homeless people and only about 11,000 shelter beds on any one night, agencies can be selective on who they take."

Their Board of Directors had already determined that they should take families that would have difficulties finding a place. Some of these challenges include families with more than two children, immigrant families without legal documents, moms who are pregnant with other small children, families with a member who has a disability [and] families with service dogs.

"Being separated from your son or sons, especially in the early teen years, just adds to the stress that moms who are unhoused are already experiencing," Judy says.

"We were determined to offer women with teenage boys another choice."

Courtesy of Judy Vaughan

Alexandria House also doesn't kick boys out when they turn 18. For example, Judy says they currently have a mom with two daughters (21 and 2) and a son who just turned 18. The family had struggled to find a shelter that would take them all together, and once they found Alexandria House, they worried the boy would be kicked out on his 18th birthday. But, says Judy, "we were not going to ask him to leave because of his age."

Homelessness is a big issue in Los Angeles. "[It] is considered the homeless capital of the United States," Judy says. "The numbers have not changed significantly since 1984 when I was working at the House of Ruth." The COVID-19 pandemic has only compounded the problem. According to Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA), over 66,000 people in the greater Los Angeles area were experiencing homelessness in 2020, representing a rise of 12.7% compared with the year before.

Each woman who comes to Alexandria House has her own unique story, but some common reasons for ending up homeless include fleeing from a domestic violence or human trafficking situation, aging out of foster care and having no place to go, being priced out of an apartment, losing a job, or experiencing a family emergency with no 'cushion' to pay the rent.

"Homelessness is not a definition; it is a situation that a person finds themselves in, and in fact, it can happen to almost anyone. There are many practices and policies that make it almost impossible to break out of poverty and move out of homelessness."

And that's why Alexandria House exists: to help them move out of it. How long that takes depends on the woman, but according to Judy, families stay an average of 10 months. During that time, the women meet with support staff to identify needs and goals and put a plan of action in place.

A number of services are provided, including free childcare, programs and mentoring for school-age children, free mental health counseling, financial literacy classes and a savings program. They have also started Step Up Sisterhood LA, an entrepreneurial program to support women's dreams of starting their own businesses. "We serve as a support system for as long as a family would like," Judy says, even after they have moved on.

And so far, the program is a resounding success.

92 percent of the 200 families who stayed at Alexandria House have found financial stability and permanent housing — not becoming homeless again.

Since founding Alexandria House 25 years ago, Judy has never lost sight of her mission to join with others and create a vision of a more just society and community. That is why she is one of Tory Burch's Empowered Women this year — and the donation she receives as a nominee will go to Alexandria House and will help grow the new Start-up Sisterhood LA program.

"Alexandria House is such an important part of my life," says Judy. "It has been amazing to watch the children grow up and the moms recreate their lives for themselves and for their families. I have witnessed resiliency, courage, and heroic acts of generosity."

When "bobcat" trended on Twitter this week, no one anticipated the unreal series of events they were about to witness. The bizarre bobcat encounter was captured on a security cam video and...well...you just have to see it. (Read the following description if you want to be prepared, or skip down to the video if you want to be surprised. I promise, it's a wild ride either way.)

In a North Carolina neighborhood that looks like a present-day Pleasantville, a man carries a cup of coffee and a plate of brownies out to his car. "Good mornin!" he calls cheerfully to a neighbor jogging by. As he sets his coffee cup on the hood of the car, he says, "I need to wash my car." Well, shucks. His wife enters the camera frame on the other side of the car.

So far, it's just about the most classic modern Americana scene imaginable. And then...

A horrifying "rrrrawwwww!" Blood-curdling screaming. Running. Panic. The man abandons the brownies, races to his wife's side of the car, then emerges with an animal in his hands. He holds the creature up like Rafiki holding up Simba, then yells in its face, "Oh my god! It's a bobcat! Oh my god!"

Then he hucks the bobcat across the yard with all his might.

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2020 was difficult (to say the least). The year was full of life changes, losses, and lessons as we learned to navigate the "new normal." You may have questions about what the changes and challenges of 2020 mean for your taxes. That's where TurboTax Live comes in, making it easy to connect with real tax experts to help with your taxes – or even do them for you, start to finish.

Not only has TurboTax Live helped millions of people get their taxes done right, but this year they've also celebrated people who uplifted their communities during a difficult time by surprising them with "little lifts" to help out even more.

Here are a few of their stories:


Julz, hairdresser and salon owner

"As a hairdresser and salon owner, 2020 was extremely challenging," says Julz. "Being a hairdresser has historically been a recession-proof industry, but we've never faced global shut down due to health risk, or pandemic, not in my lifetime. And for the first time, hairdressers didn't have job security."

Julz had to shut down her salon and go on unemployment benefits for the first time. She also had to figure out how she was going to support herself, her staff and her business during this difficult time. But many other beauty industry professionals didn't have access to the resources they needed, so Julz decided to help.

"My business partner and I began teaching basic financial literacy to other beauty industry professionals," she says. "Transitioning our business from behind the chair to an online academy was a challenge we tackled head-on so that we could move hairdressers into this new space of education, and create a more accessible curriculum to better serve our industry.

Julz connected with a TurboTax Live expert who helped her understand how unemployment affected her taxes and gave her guidance on filing quarterly estimated taxes for her small business. "I was terrified to sit at a computer and tackle this mess of receipts," Julz says, so "it was great to have some virtual handholding to walk me through each question."

In addition to giving Julz the personalized tax advice she needed, TurboTax Live surprised her with a "little lift" that empowered her to help even more beauty professionals. "When my tax expert Diana surprised me with a little lift, I was moved to tears," says Julz. "With that little lift, I was able to establish a scholarship fund to help get other hairdressers the education they deserve."


Alana, new mom

Alana welcomed her first child in 2020. "I think my biggest challenge was figuring out how to be a mom, with no guidance," she says. "My original plan was to have my mom by my side, teaching me the ropes, but because of COVID, she wasn't able to come out here."

She was also without a job for most of 2020 and struggled to find something new.

So, Alana took it as a sign: she decided to launch her own business so she could support her new baby, and that's exactly what she did. She started a feel-good company that specializes in creating affirmation card decks — and she's currently in the process of starting a second, video-editing business.

TurboTax Live answered Alana's questions about her taxes and gave her some much-needed advice as she prepared to launch her businesses. Thanks to their "little lift," they provided her with a little emotional support too.

"I got my mom a plane ticket to finally [have her] meet [my daughter] for her first birthday," Alana says. "I was also able to get a new computer," which helped her invest in her new business and work on her video editing skills. "It's helped my family and me so much," she says.


Michael, science teacher

When schools shut down across the country last year, Michael had to learn how to adapt to a virtual classroom.

"As a teacher, I had to completely revamp everything," he says, so that he could keep his students engaged while teaching online. "At the beginning, it was a nightmare because I had no idea. I had to go from A-Z within a couple of weeks."

Michael's TurboTax Live expert answered his questions about how working from home affected his taxes and helped him uncover surprising tax deductions. To top it all off, his expert surprised him with brand new science equipment and supplies, which allowed him to create an entire line of classes on YouTube, TikTok, Instagram, and Facebook. "Now I can truly potentially reach millions of children with my lessons," he says. "I would never have taken that leap if not for the little lift from TurboTax Live."



Ricky, motivational youth speaker

As a motivational speaker, Ricky was used to doing his job in person, but, he says, "when COVID-19 hit, it altered my ability to travel and visit schools in person [because] schools moved to fully virtual or hybrid models."

He knew he had to pivot — so he began offering small virtual group workshops for student leadership groups at middle and high schools.

"This allowed me to work with student leaders to plan how they would continue making a positive impact on their school community," he says. He wasn't sure how being remote would affect his taxes, but TurboTax Live Self-Employed gave him the advice and answers that he needed to keep more money in his pocket at tax time — and the little lift he received from them has helped him serve even more students.

"[It] has been a major blessing," he says "There will be multiple schools and student groups from across the country that I can hold leadership workshops with to empower them with the tools to be inspirational leaders in their school, community, and world."

Plus, he says, it was great knowing he had an expert to help him figure out how being remote affected his taxes. "I felt confident and assured in the process of filing my taxes knowing I had an expert working with me, says Ricky. "There were things my expert knew that I would not have considered when filing on my own."

Filing your taxes doesn't have to be intimidating, especially after a year like 2020. TurboTax Live experts can give you the "little lift" you need to get your taxes done. File with the help of an expert or let an expert file for you! Go to TurboTax Live to get started.