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Dome Pondering - 2019 Year in Review


Hey, 2020. Where are you?

As we look to slam the door shut on 2019 - and believe me, I'm ready to do so - I hope I can help you  take a look back on the year that was. Reflection is always necessary in life, and 2019 has given us all quite a bit to review, dissect, and of course, to digest.

So, before we turn the page to focus in on new goals and resolutions, and to look ahead to the year to come, let's do what we've done for the past fourteen years - hand out a few awards on the year's events, and of course, share some quick thoughts before moving forward, for good.

Dome Pondering Year in Review History

Quick Note: As always, I would like to THANK YOU for continuing to read (and now listen!) to this tiny space on the internet called Dome Pondering. It's hard to imagine I started this way back when I was a teenager, and here it is, still archiving the thoughts of mine in this race called life. I've slowed down just a bit - you can thank fatherhood and adulthood - but, I still dry to drop a few notes and thoughts where I can, or of course, when I feel inspired.

Nonetheless, thank you so much.

With all of that said, let's hand out the 2019 Pondys.


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THE PONDY AWARDS



*Crucial Moment of the Year: Presidential Impeachment

It came at the end of the year, and will bleed over into 2020. Nonetheless, history was made. However you slice it, or whatever your opinion is on politics, the current President was brought up on charges and is just the third President in history to go through this. All of it, really, just a climactic end to a year filled of political shenanigans in America.

*World Affairs Issue of the Year: New Zealand Mass Shooting

In many ways, this too could have doubled as "Crucial Moment of the Year". The tragic shooting in New Zealand, followed by the country's swift legislative changes to prevent future shootings was an example of how effective prevention of these matters can happen. It also placed a light on how dysfunctional the country with the most mass shootings (by a landslide!) really is. Oh, by the way, that's us.

*Inspirational Story of the Year: Greta Thunberg

She walked away with TIME's Person of the Year Award at the age of sixteen in 2019. Thunberg also delivered an impassioned speech directly at the world's leaders without fear, and with direct intent. She embodies an inspiring new generation of individuals empowered by crooked regimes, ignored dangers, and unjust policy-making.

*Random Story of the Year: College Admissions Scam

Random only because Aunt Becky and Felicity freakin Huffman lead the charge in this scam. But everything about this college admissions scandal exposed so many issues within our society in regards to education inequality, power, access, and privilege in our society.

*Most Controversial Story of the Year: Immigration Detention Centers

From detainment centers, separation of families, enforced stigmas of immigrants, and horrific personal experiences happening at the border, our actions at the southern border became probably the biggest story of the year.

*Most Overrated Story of the Year: Mueller Report

For a good part of the year, we've had to hear about the Mueller Report and everything within in it that would either exonerate the President from ties to Russia, or pin him against the wall. Well, the report was released, and the hearings were done, and everything about the Mueller report produced nothing.

Honorable Mention: Fast Food Chicken Sandwiches

*Tune of the Year: "Old Country Road" by Lil Nas X ft Billy Ray Cyrus

I personally wasn't all that into the song. However, the tune topped the charts for most of the year, as well as challenged boundaries in music (see HEREHERE, and HERE for examples). It wasn't accepted as being "country" from the country community or qualified for the category. Definitely a tune fitting for the social fight that was everywhere in 2019.

*Invention of the Year: "When They See Us" By Ava DuVernay

Typically, this award has gone to gadgets. But the creation of "When They See Us" is the most powerful entity I've come across this year. Please go watch it.

*Comeback of the Year: Washington Nationals 2019 Season

To think the eventual World Series champions started the year at 19-31 is absolutely incredible. That's fight. That's quite the comeback.

*"Wishing Well" Award of the Year: Stoppage to White Nationalism

It's sad that in 2019, something like proclaiming "white power" is still a thing. But here we are. Even sadder? That it's now on the rise, and empowered. Disgusting.

*"Just Go Away" Award of the Year: Internet Trolls

I can't even imagine feeling validated in not just stirring the pot, but doing so anonymously from behind a keyboard or screen. Trolls - all kinds, in all topics and genres - are the absolute worst. Trolls everywhere, it's about time you get this one.

Go away.


*"Largest Fortitude" Award of the Year: Robert Smith

Anybody can give a commencement speech and offer up life-changing advice. Billionaire Robert Smith, decided to do that and offer up life-changing action. Smith agreed to pay off the 2019 Morehouse College graduating class' college debt. And yes, he followed through on his promise.

Good luck to the Morehouse College commencement guest speaker in 2020. Tough act to follow.

"We'll Miss You" Award of the Year: Nipsey Hussle

He tried to uplift his community through his own success. It's becoming too routine to see such empowering individuals leave us - and, so young, too.

*"What Were You Thinking" Award of the Year: Trump Sharpie Gate

This may annoy some, but I'm going to just say it - that entire ordeal with our President using a sharpie on a board projecting "new" hurricane "patterns" in order to "save face" might be one of the craziest, and dumbest, things I've ever seen from a person in such a high position. I really would like to ask the President, the White House, those around everything prior to that press conference - what were you thinking?

*"What a Shame" Award of the Year: Atatiana Jefferson Death

Her death hit me hard. And while 2019 saw its continuing share of people of color being killed wrongfully in situations involving the police, the idea that she was in her own home and protecting her family with a legal fire arm, makes it that more difficult to stomach.

Honorable Mention: Robert Kraft Trial; Stephan Clark; and, Hurricane Dorian

*"Welcome to the Scene" Award of the Year: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

AOC causes all sorts of reactions from the masses. The type of reaction depends on your political view. Like I noted in My Most Fascinating Things of 2019, AOC causes a stir, and of course, a reaction, and in 2019, she arrived on the national stage in a big way.

Honorable Menton: Luka Doncic; Coco Gauff; Pete Alonso; NCAA Pay-for-Play Rule; and, Elizabeth Warren

*"This Should Have Been Done Before" Award of the Year: Jeffrey Epstein Arrested

It's scary to think about how many people knew, and even scarier, how many people protected him.

*"The Incredibles" Award of the Year: Tyler Perry Studios

Everything about this is incredible. Perry's self-made status. The prospectus to give people of color greater access and opportunity in Hollywood. But the best part is the poetic justice of the studios being built on a former slave plantation. Perry has done good with this. And it should be interesting to see what else comes from it.

*"We Need to Fix This" Award of the Year: Mass Shootings

We had a weekend where we had two public mass shootings in two different parts of the country, in under 18 hours. We need to fix this...like yesterday.

*Biggest Letdown of the Year: Penalty for College Admissions Scam

Who knows what Lori Loughlin will receive from her trial? But Felicity Huffman got a ridiculous sentence of 14 days, a $30,000 fine, and 250 hours of community service.

*Idiot of the Year: Jussie Smollett

What. An. Idiot.


*Dome Pondering Person of the Year: Kendrick Castillo

The story of Kendrick Castillo stuck with me all year. Your normal high school student, going about a typical day in Colorado, suddenly giving his life to save the lives of his friends, his teachers, and the many others in yet, ANOTHER school mass shooting.

Castillo lunged at the shooter who entered his classroom, giving everyone time to hide behind desks, run into closets, or outright escape. Despite pleads of "Don't be a hero!" from his father in a frantic phone call, Castillo mere feet away from the entering gunman, sacrificed himself without hesitation.

Castillo was among a few other students who helped stopped the incident from becoming a larger tragedy, however, was the only one to perish.

I cannot fathom the amount of courage and selflessness at the age of eighteen - really, at any age! - to react in such a way. It takes a special type of person, one grounded in themselves, and understanding the value of life. His parents, albeit in grief, should be proud and honored. They raised a hero who is gone too soon.

*Wrestling Show of the Year: NXT TakeOver: New York

Honestly, VERY few shows stood out to me as being outright entertaining. NXT TakeOver: New York definitely takes the nod as the first one that comes to mind this year.

Honorable Mention: NXT TakeOver Toronto (WWE NXT); Rebellion (Impact), Slammiversary (Impact), Wrestlemania 35 (WWE); NXT WarGames (WWE NXT);

*Pro Wrestling Match of the Year: Kofi Kingston vs. Daniel Bryan - WWE Wrestlemania 35

Much like my decisions on Best Wrestling Show, 2019 had a tremendous amount of excellent athletic matches. However, the ones that stood out the most to me were the matches driven by stories, buildups, drama, and payoffs. Kingston vs. Bryan on the industry's biggest stage was definitely that for me with a handful of close runner-up selections.

Honorable Mention: Tessa Blanchard vs. Sami Callahan - Impact Slammiversary; Adam Cole vs. Johnny Gargano - 2 out of 3 Falls - NXT Takeover: New York; Dustin Rhodes vs. Cody - AEW Double or Nothing

*Pro Wrestling Tag Team of the Year: Santana and Ortiz (Impact and AEW)

The fellas from New York City put in some serious work over the course of 2019, spanning two companies. Their Full Metal Mayhem match with the Lucha Bros at Impact Rebellion is a huge highlight.

Honorable Mention: The Lucha Bros; The Undisputed Era, and The Young Bucks

*Female Pro Wrestler of the Year: Becky Lynch

I'm a huuuuuuuuuuuuge fan of Tessa Blanchard. While she's embarking on a path rarely seen by women in pro wrestling, there is no doubt that everything that was women's wrestling this year started with Becky Lynch. From her in-ring efforts, to headlining Wrestlemania, to crossover media appeal, "The Man" carried the torch for the women in 2019.

Honorable Mention: Tessa Blanchard (Impact); Shayna Baszler (WWE NXT); Charlotte Flair (WWE); Taya Valkryie (Impact)


*Male Pro Wrestler of the Year: Adam Cole (WWE NXT)

I came to this conclusion when thinking about Adam Cole this year: EVERYTHING he was a part of was just absolutely entertaining. Cole was in the middle of some of the best matches NXT had to offer in 2019. From that lens, this one is easy for me - it's Adam Cole (Bay! Bay!).

Honorable Mention: Chris Jericho (NJPW and AEW); Sami Callahan (Impact); Kazuchika Okada (NJPW); Daniel Bryan (WWE)

*Sport Event of the Year: MLB World Series - Washington Nationals vs. Houston Astros

The fall classic went seven games, and gave us an underdog champion lead by a budding Hall of Fame pitcher, and a future star who hasn't even turned 21 as of yet.

Honorable Mention: FIFA Women's World Cup and NBA Finals - Toronto Raptors vs. Golden State Warriors


*The Derek Jeter Flip Play Award of the Year: Simone Biles Triple Twisting Double Back

The 2018 DP Athlete of the Year delivered a historic display of physics completing the super difficult maneuver during the 2019 US Championships. It's so hard to look away, as I've watched the act over, and over, and over. It's just insane.

*Coach of the Year: Jill Ellis and Dave Martinez

Ellis kept a dominant women's club focused and united toward back-to-back Women World Cup victories despite the expectations, the history, the individual voices, the haters, the public fight for equal pay and so much more.

Martinez, on the verge of being fired, kept the Nationals believing after a tough 19-31 start. He then lead them allllll the way to the 2019 World Series.

Different circumstances, but both VERY impressive coaching accomplishments in 2019.

*Team of the Year: United States Women's National Soccer Team

Expected. Dominated. Swag. Stood for something. How could you not love this squad?

Honorable Mention: Toronto Raptors and Washington Nationals


*Dome Pondering Athlete of the Year: Megan Rapinoe

Speaking of love...Megan Rapinoe is a freakin BOSS. She wasn't the best athlete on her team, but the combination of skill, leadership, confidence, and sheer attitude exuded by Rapinoe en route to a World Cup victory was downright memorable. and of course, there is the awesome hair.

Not only was Rapinoe and her outreaching arms the signature pose of the tournament, but Rapinoe took on the President of the United States, entrenched herself deeper in the fight for equal pay for the women's national team. Not easy.

Rapinoe carried herself with the kind of roll model-esque flair for little boys and girls to be themselves, and to stand up for what you believe in. She endured once her name veered outside of the sports world and into political and social realms, which we all know were not easy spaces in 2019.

2019 was the year of the United States Women's National Soccer Team, and summer definitely belonged to Megan Rapinoe.

Honorable Mention: Simone Biles; Elena Della Donne; Mike Trout; Jacob deGrom; and, Kawhi Leonard

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THE FINAL COUNTDOWN

Unfair.

If you asked me to describe 2019, that very response rises to the surface.

Simply, a pure and reduced description - unfair.

In preparation for writing this final countdown, I decided to read the 2017 and 2018 Year in Reviews. After all, as I sit here descending upon the finish line of 2019, it suddenly feels like a weird third installation of this ever-evolving trilogy that is the current chapter in my life.

Except, 2019 felt lonely. It was cruel. It was devastating. And in many moments, it was downright breaking.

This was the year, following several years of understanding and learning how to cope with my dad's health over the past two years, as well as adjusting to the effects of the disease that is dementia, in which it all came to a head. In a cruel manner, it was another sudden health scare (imagine that?) which almost took his life - twice. His dementia simply expounded the happenstance, drastically deteriorating the man I once knew as Dad.

This was also the year that I learned about our (United States) healthcare system - not just as a potential voter and bystander of ignorance and privileged health, but now, experiencing it's systemic brokenness, and everything that it is set up to NOT do.

I've sat in emergency rooms, intensive care units, recovery rooms, rehabilitation centers, lawyer offices, social worker conference rooms, insurance offices, and so many more...for hours, and hours.

It can harden a soul.

This was the year that I cried. What? Really? I did.

Right before bursting into tears, I realized that the version of my dad I knew, that raised me, and who I loved, would never be coming back. It also later dawned on me that my son would never meet that version of him.

But really, I cried because I was emotionally drained, spiritually bankrupt, mentally exhausted, and physically spent after multiple years of carrying the burden of him and others as he suffered through this disease. At this point, I was the most vulnerable in my life that I've ever been.

I haven't said this to anyone. But in many ways it is like my dad has passed on. He doesn't know who I am, nor my name. And since that day in which I cried and let it all go, I've genuinely thought about him every day. I miss him dearly.

He was a good man, with a good heart. And I've yet to understand and really wrap my mind around why this was to be.

This was the year that I realized that I was NOT okay. I dragged myself through the motions, giving what was left of me to others and everyone, thus, creating a large deficit in the bank of self-care. And the truth is, I wasn't okay. I can admit that there were parts of this year in which the only thing that made me happy were my wife and son. Nothing else. It was easily the most mentally wrecked I've been that I can remember.

I'll never forget my Dad's surgeon placing his arm around me and asking "are you okay?". It literally was the best thing said to me all year - because I heard it so rarely in 2019.

And there were other bothers, of course, that compounded things.

From people, professionally, in positions they've never earned (which of course bothered me, a son of two working immigrants); the inequalities and socioeconomic struggles in higher education that I'm exposed to daily; the racial injustice and xenophobic bullshit being spewed on cable news channels and, even at dinner tables I've sat around...it all added to the flame - all of it.

There are also the countless mass shootings to come across the bottom line of the tv before wrapping itself around my heart. Especially, the gut-wrenching ones that take place in schools, now triggering my ability to have comprehensive empathy for other parents. There are also the countless documents, photos, and testimonials of and from the many who have been separated from other loved ones before being locked up in immigration detention centers around our country.

Again, unfair. All of it. Personal. Professional. Social. Within, and all around.

It's an on-going battle, but definitely one that has helped re-shape me in 2019. It sounds like crazy talk, and truthfully, it is, but at age 34 (only took me this long, right?), I've come to this very life hold - a real, crystal clear, understanding - that not only is life unfair, but there are severe depths and reaches to its unfairness.

Yet, with that said, God is good. In an unfair world, it's the things in fair play that are suddenly illuminated, emboldened, and renewed. The scars of 2019 has prepared me for 2020.

Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.
- James 1:12

After all, while 2019 felt (and was) unfair, it's teachings, outputs, unveilings, exposure and everything it placed me through has given me a clearer perspective on not only the importance of taking care of myself and the authentically important things in life, but also, in appreciating the time and opportunities before me - everyday. Every. Single. Day.

Life is unfair. I just can't extend (or expect) loved ones to live forever. I can't give everyone what they need. I can't fix the world. And that's alright.

But I can make the most of the time I have with those who add to my life. I can do the very best I can (Be Perfect?) for those who desire a necessary boost or support. And I can do my part to educate, inspire, and motivate those around me to be better and to treat others better - and allow them, to do the same in me.

Everything else, the criticism, the noise, the pressure, all of the supposedly important matters, even the hateful, microaggression bullshit, can all just fade away.

A wise man once told me that life is hard, but it is simple - Love lots. Work Hard. Laugh a lot. And believe strongly in something.

That man, was my dad.

Life is so, so incredibly unfair. How will you keep it simple?

In 2020, how will you respond?

Happy New Year!

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