Darn it, 2016. I stuck up for you. I contended that lots of beloved public figures die every year. I encouraged patience for the new president. I pointed out how weather patterns can be weird from year to year. Yeah, I said, you may not have been the greatest year ever, but you weren’t as bad as everyone made you out to be.

And then you had to go and take Princess Leia from us.

What the heck, 2016? Couldn’t you give us one lousy break?

What was it about this year that made it seem so, well, sucky? All those things I mentioned in the first paragraph could certainly cause apprehension in any year, but what was it about 2016 that made them seem so massively bad? Aside from the Cleveland Cavaliers’ and the Chicago Cubs’ sports triumphs providing some rays of sunshine, it almost seemed as if a permanent pallor hung over the entire year.

I can only speculate here, but I think the reason the deaths of all those well-known (I hate using the word “famous,” for some reason…) people hit us so hard is because we didn’t see them coming. Or, at least, we didn’t see a lot of them coming. David Bowie had just released a new album. Prince had just performed a series of concerts. Wasn’t Craig Sager just on the sidelines of the last NBA game we watched? And, because of Star Wars, Carrie Fisher was immortal to some of us. Like the Force, Princess Leia will be with us always.

Everything this year just seemed so unexpected. Donald Trump wasn’t supposed to be our next president. We weren’t supposed to experience a drought. And we certainly didn’t expect so many cultural icons to die (even though I still contend it’s actually no more than the usual year would give us). As much as we live in a culture that tries to push the envelope, we don’t like being shocked. We need some kind of sense of security in the end, and 2016 stripped us of that security and left us cold.

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, though, but 2017 will probably bring all kinds of suck with it, too. Celebrities we grew up with will die. Politicians will do stupid things. The weather will pound us in one way or another. So maybe we ought to cut 2016 a little slack and put it in perspective. It wasn’t that much worse than any other year; it just seemed that way because we didn’t see it coming. It caught us off guard. Maybe 2017 won’t seem so bad because we’ll be expecting the bad stuff a little more.

Just no more Star Wars icons, though. Okay, 2017? Thanks.

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