I know I’ve spent a lot of time bitching about 2016, but-believe me- it’s warranted. I’m not just agonizing over the 2016 election results either. 2016 took the liberty of kicking my ass on a number of occasions. However, after living through this shitstorm of a year I do not want to forget it. Instead, I’ve found myself extremely grateful for this difficult trip around the sun.
I ended 2015 as a cautiously optimistic Jo Pincushion after moving out of my South Philadelphia home and into my parents’ house. With a majority of my belongings scattered between my grandmother’s attic and my parents’ basement I prepared for my move to NYC. I spent a few months saving money by bouncing around Delaware County watching my grandmother and my brother’s dog. After having spent the past 5 years in my own home in South Philly– it felt strange adapting the a couch surfing lifestyle, and I never felt quite settled in 2016.
In the spring, I moved to Astoria with a carload of stuff. I shared a four bedroom apartment with three other women. I shoved a majority of my things into one closet, and slept on a matress on the floor in a bright blue mold-covered bedroom. I didn’t mind it–knowing it could’ve been much worse.
The signature of my email is a take on the famous John Lennon quote that reads; “Zombie attacks happen when you’re busy making other plans.” I didn’t even think of this philosophy while preparing for my big move. How ironic, because although my time in NYC was special– it certainly did not go according to plan.
I could harp on on the negative things that happened during the spring of this year. From losing a majority of my social media clients to losing a large number of my friends. 2016 kept delivering gut punch after gut punch, and I began to accept these cosmic kicks to my rear as a new normal. By June, I didn’t even bat an eye when I had to fix my South Philadelphia home’s air conditioning system with my savings.
So let me focus on the positive. I’ve always been goal oriented, and I set a series of goals for myself in 2016. I never earned a creative education, and I was determined to get a taste in 2016. I told myself that I would take Improv 101 & 201 at The Upright Citizens Brigade. I did it. I also told myself I would find an acting coach that would help me improve my craft. I found Penny Templeton. I said I would see a show, get to watch Amy Poehler perform improv, and get my first stand up gig.
I did it. As difficult as it was, 2016 taught me that when I put my mind to it…I can get shit done.
My education helped me grow as an artist and person. For so long, Jo Pincushion was a shield that allowed me to express myself without bringing my true identity into the spotlight. In 2016, I learned the more honest you are– the easier expressing yourself becomes. When you go through hard times you do some soul searching. My comedy has become more honest, and I’ve grown more comfortable penning short memoirs about my life. I went to New York to learn how to do improv and act… and I ended up learning who I really wanted to be.
This year’s election also took a toll –our country has never been this divided, and I especially felt the division within my own family. When it comes to politics, I’ve always been a passionate person. It was painful to see the people I love disregarding issues that were important to me. Facebook was filled with angry status updates, and alternative news sources only solidified everyone’s isolation. I began to question the ethics of my own promotional practices online, and I worried that the culture my generation created was the cause of the state of the world.
The election of Donald Trump only increased my soul searching, and I found myself asking why I was using a fake name to protect everyone else’s feelings… when my own feelings weren’t being taken seriously. So, In 2016 I realized it was time to leave Jo Pincushion online and introduce Jo Anna Van Thuyne to the real world. I’m tired of protecting other people’s insecurities, and I’m tired of being a joke.
So Here Is My Resolution for 2017
After nearly losing my business, being laughed at by friends, and watching my family support a megalomaniac… I realized I still have control. I can still decide who I want to be–and I don’t have to pretend to be anything for anyone else’s sake.
I am going to use 2017 to fully express myself as Jo Anna Van Thuyne, which may not be perfect, but at least I’m honest and that’s a start. 2016 kicked my ass, but I have a high threshold for pain. I’m grateful that it left me in the dirt–because when I get back up in 2017 I’m going to wipe off my bloody lip and kick some ass.