'Who your real friends? We all came from the bottom / I'm always blaming you but what's sad, you're not the problem."
If 2016 really was, as Kylie Jenner put it, the year of realising stuff, then I'm basically Keeping Up With The Kardashians. A veritable shitshow of disastrous world events, racial tension, family illness and mental health struggles, it was at times hard to see the light for the dark, hard to see where I fit in this new, scary adult world.
It is in these times that you're forced to look around you, forced to take stock of the people you choose to be your allies in this life. Whether this be the family you are given, colleagues, friends from childhood or casual acquaintances you pick up as you negotiate adulthood, who you surround yourself with often says more about your personality than you really give credit for. So often, we don't take charge of that fact - we struggle to admit when a friendship has gone stale for fear of confrontation, or we miss the opportunity to tell somebody special just how much they mean to you. We don't open ourselves up to new, real interactions - journeys on public transport are spent burying our heads in phones rather than engaging with the stranger opposite, or we walk heads down, refusing eye contact and assuming the thoughts of those who walk past. 'I guess I get what I deserved don't I?.'
Looking at myself and at others, I realise that a lack of honesty, a lack of 'realness' is often at fault here - it's near second-nature for me to put on a brave face when I'm struggling, to help others swim before admitting that I'm drowning myself. To assume the worst intentions of people when chances are, their only crime is being a little thoughtless, or worse. It's something I plan to and know I must work on, putting faith in those around me and letting them surprise me - the struggle you think is unique to you is so often shared by people you'd never even realise.
As icons around us died, Trump became leader of the 'free' world and we began steps to leave the EU, the mantra 'life is too short' has never been truer. We've all landed on this great mass as strangers, and we all leave as strangers unless we fight to forge true, positive connections. Not all of us will ever be a great star like Bowie or Prince, capable of changing social and political landscapes, but we can all make change in our immediate vicinity - change as small as getting in touch with that childhood friend, letting your partner feel loved, caring for a parent the way they cared for you before we all grew up and got proud. For all of these reasons and many more, one song resonated more with me in 2016 than any other.
A character more omnipresent and yet more alienated than Kanye West is hard to find. We see his image online near-daily, entertained by his exploits and outrageous behaviour without questioning why he might have become that way. We attribute the labels of egomaniac, genius, angry black man, never stopping for a moment to remember that he is just as fallable as the rest of us - more so even, with the scrutiny of the entire world place upon him, watching and mocking as he descends into breakdown after the anniversary of his mother's death and nearly losing his wife at gunpoint. Two vital people in his life, people that make him a son and a husband like so many of us.
'Real Friends' seems so fitting for 2016 - weak become heroes, heroes become 'weak' - letting that mask slip for long enough to let everybody know that pain knows no paycheck. It weaves a familiar tale - growing distance between families, getting too wrapped up in pride to extend that hand of reconciliation. But what would happen if we were all this honest? Would the distance grow at all? Or would we reveal the best in people by giving them a chance? Maybe in 2017, we need to take a look at the people we surround ourselves with - let that stranger in, let that acquaintance grow, let that family member become a friend. What else have we got?