In 2023, your boy went through it, ya'll.
And I'm sure you did, too. Didn't we all?
2023 was quite the year. And for the world that we all share our experiences within, it certainly provided an aura that was heavy, and felt like the world around us was always on fire.
Nonetheless, we're at the finish line, and if writing these Year in Reviews for the past eighteen years has taught me anything, it's that the opportunity to enjoy the opportunity for reflection and give thanks is the most salient part of this review process.
And as always, that starts with you, the reader of this little site called Dome Pondering. Again, I can't contribute as much as I'd like, but when I do, I thank you for checking in, for the support, and even for the occasional feedback. It's always - always! - appreciated.
So let's get on with this thing. As is customary, let's hand out the usual end-of-the-year Pondy Awards and I'll put a bow on my 2023 with some personal reflections and thoughts.
THE PONDY AWARDS
Pretty obvious, right? The world hasn't been the same since those initial attacks on October 7th. It's spurred so much discourse, feelings, emotions, and reverberations in various areas of life...
*World Affairs Issue of the Year: Israel-Hamas War
Another obvious, right?
Honorable Mention: War in Ukraine, COVID No Longer a Global Health Emergency, and Extreme weather or conditions
*Inspirational Story of the Year: Yusuf Salaam
It was hard to find light and inspiration in 2023 when everything just felt so dire. Maybe we just missed it a lot. For me, it was the story of Yusuf Salaam, one of the men exonerated from the Central Park Five, who returned to NYC and won the seat of New York City Council for the 9th District.
There is so much grace and forgiveness in this story.
Honorable Mention: Nargas Muhammadi and the Discovery of Microbes
*Random Story of the Year: Bud Light Boycott
The whole entire thing still baffles me - how did it get this far?! Nonetheless, it's a whole thing now for beer drinkers and social activists on both sides of the aisle, especially for the right. For me, it's (still) so random, and so wacky...even in thinking back on it.
Honorable Mention: Trump Indictments; Chinese Spy Balloon; Tupac Shakur Killer Charged; and, Titan Submarine Goes Missing
*Most Controversial Story of the Year: Israel-Hamas War
Yup. Controversial is an understatement.
Honorable Mention: Abortion Rights; and, Race Admissions in Higher Education
*Most Overrated Story of the Year: Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Marriage Updates
Please. No more info. We don't want it. Stop giving us updates.
Honorable Mention: King Charles Appointment
*Tune of the Year: "Fire" by Chris Stapleton
This was a tough call. There were a lot of good albums out there in 2023. For me, I'm going with a gut call and giving it to Stapleton for this gem on his 2023 album, Higher. The song hits me.
*Invention of the Year: ChatGPT
I probably don't even need to write these reviews anymore. GPT Chat may produce next year's Year in Review. Of course, I'm kidding.
*Comeback of the Year: Simone Biles
One of the greatest took a break due to the mental yips. Not only did she return in 2023, but she came back even better than before and solidified herself as the GOAT. Quite the comeback for Biles, and it's been quite the 2023 for her legacy.
Honorable Mention: Miley Cyrus and Damar Hamlin
*"Wishing Well" Award of the Year: World Peace
We can use it, right?
Honorable Mention: More World Peace
*"Just Go Away" Award of the Year: Impulsive Sports Media Content
It's time. Let's call it. Sports media and discourse have gotten so bad, it's unbearable. Shout out to the mediums that still offer intelligent insight and breakdowns, and not "hot takes".
Honorable Mention: Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Marriage Updates
*"Largest Fortitude" Award of the Year: Everyone in Gaza
I can't even imagine. Prayers and love to those enduring hostage situations and mourning the loss of loved ones. No words to express the heartbreak involved in this topic. Probably the strongest people on the planet right now.
*"We'll Miss You" Award of the Year: Social Community
I took an Uber in Pittsburgh this year where a driver so beautifully said, "We've moved from 'it takes a village to raise a child'" to blaming anyone who dares talk to our child about right and wrong". He was so right. We've lost so much of what brings us together.
Life feels a lot more like we're picking sides, teams, and positions than it used to.
*"What Were You Thinking" Award of the Year: Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank
These banks literally had to be saved by the FDIC and almost cost so many individuals their hard-earned savings.
*"What a Shame" Award of the Year: Modern Slavery for Renewable Resources
In a world that has endured some heartbreak all year, it was this story of modern slavery in the Congo for renewable energy efforts that had me appalled. In fact, it's a shame what has happened in the continent regarding geo-political invasion for resources, the mass migration due to extreme weather, and the vulnerability of local governments to Western powers.
Such a shame.
Honorable Mention: Turkey Earthquakes and Hawaii Wildfires
*Welcome to the Scene: Award of the Year: Vivek Ramaswamy
I have a feeling he'll be around in the political sphere for a while. We'll see...
Honorable Mention: Victor Wembanyama, Coach Prime, Union Strikes, Ice Spice, and World Migration
*"This Should Have Been Done Before" Award of the Year: Supreme Court Ethics Code
Seems kind of important that individuals with such power and a lifelong appointment to do said job, should have some ethics code tied to their job, no? Seems long overdue.
Honorable Mention: AG-AFTRA Strike
*"The Incredibles" Award of the Year: Taylor Swift Eras Tour
One tour was a mega-producing revenue machine for so many cities. What Taylor Swift and her crew pulled off in 2023 was absolutely incredible.
Oh yeah, throw in a movie as well.
Honorable Mention: LeBron James in Year 21; and, Domingo German's Perfect Game
*"We Need to Fix This" Award of the Year: Housing Crisis
I mentioned this a little in my "Most Fascinating Things of 2023". The Housing Crisis is tied to so many other issues in our country right now. All of it is indicative of our nation's status.
Honorable Mention: National Debt (over $33 Trillion!) and the Migrant Crisis
*Biggest Letdown of the Year: U.S. Women's Soccer National Team
From the lack of national support at home for the team to the on-the-field product, the push for a third straight World Cup felt very unlikely once the World Cup began. Such a disappointment for a program that should have had much more success.
*Idiot of the Year: George Santos
Lies. Deceit. Downfall. Idiot.
Honorable Mention: Draymond Green
*Dome Pondering Person of the Year: Taylor Swift
Another obvious, right? 2023 was Taylor Swift's, and she owned it. From the unbelievable Eras Tour, a movie, re-released albums, and yes, infiltrating the NFL's mega-fandom bubble, Swift dominated the year with excellence in a way that we've likely never seen a celebrity or artist do before.
We all at some point talked about Taylor Swift. And deservedly so. Mega year. Megastar. Mega impact.
*Wrestling Show of the Year: Wrestlemania 39
The industry's biggest show of the year put on by the industry's biggest company, flexed and delivered the very best show of the year. Memorable in so many ways. It was a sign to come as the WWE had a record-setting 2023.
Honorable Mention: AEW Forbidden Door; WWE Backlash; and Impact/TNA Bound For Glory
*The Jim Ross "Business is About to Pick Up" Award of the Year: Sami Zayn Turns on Roman Reigns
The ultimate storytelling. With a superb climax. That moment will live forever.
Honorable Moment: CM Punk Returns to WWE
*Pro Wrestling Match of the Year: Roman Reigns vs. Cody Rhodes (Wrestlemania 39)
Now, these are the awards that start the heavy debates among pro wrestling fans. For me, there were certainly other matches that were better in-ring stories and surpassed with athleticism. However, this was a simple gem because of EVERYTHING that went into it, and EVERYTHING that came out of it. This had meaning and still does a year after going into another Wrestlemania. For me, that raises it above everything. Match. Of. The. Year.
Honorable Mention: Gunther vs. Sheamus vs. Drew McIntyre (Wrestlemania 39); Kenny Omega vs. Will Ospreay (AEW Forbidden Door); The Usos vs. Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn (Wrestlemania 39); Eddie Edwards vs. Kazarian (Impact Wrestling Episode); and, Alex Shelley vs. Josh Alexander (Bound For Glory)
*Pro Wrestling Tag Team of the Year: The Usos (WWE)
Easy win. Usos headlined Wrestlemania as a Tag Team. Carried 2023 as a Tag Team. I don't think we're close.
Honorable Mention: Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn (WWE), FTR (AEW) and ABC (Impact Wrestling)
*Female Pro Wrestler of the Year: Rhea Ripley (WWE)
There is Mami and everyone else. Ripley was 2023.
Honorable Mention: Naomi (Impact Wrestling); Becky Lynch (WWE); Deonna Purrazzo (Impact Wrestling); Jordynne Grace (Impact Wrestling)
*Male Pro Wrestler of the Year: Roman Reigns (WWE)
Another no-doubter. No one is on the level of Roman Reigns.
It's been that kind of year for WWE. Sweeping it all.
Honorable Mention: Gunther (WWE); Cody Rhodes (WWE); Seth Rollins (WWE); MJF (AEW); Will Ospreay (NJPW), and Alex Shelley (Impact)
*Sports Event of the Year: Women's Basketball National Championship - LSU vs. Iowa
Angel Reese with the taunt to Caitlin Clark - still awesome stuff. Wouldn't mind a rematch in 2024. So happy for Women's Basketball.
Honorable Mention - Women's World Cup and World Baseball Classic
*"The Derek Jeter Flip Play" Award of the Year: Ohtani Strikesout Trout (WBC Final Out)
Best sports moment of the year. Not. Even. Close.
All of the storylines. All of the accolades. The emotionally charged Shohei Ohtani, the all-around international unicorn talent staring down his Angel's teammate, the all-great and stoically steady, Mike Trout from the USA. For the Championship. What an at-bat. What a moment.
Honorable Mention: LeBron James Becomes NBA All-Time Scoring Leader
*Coach of the Year: Erik Spoelstra
Spoelstra year in and year out gets the most out of his teams. Leading the #8-seeded Miami Heat into the NBA Finals was just another example of that "culture" he leads. Spo deserves the love.
Honorable Mention: Andy Reid; Becky Hammon; Bruce Bochy; and, Michael Malone
*Team of the Year: Denver Nuggets
Jokic and the Boys get this one this year. Well deserved.
Honorable Mention: Spain National Women's Women Soccer Team; Las Vegas Aces; Texas Rangers; Kansas City Chiefs;
*Dome Pondering Athlete of the Year: Shohei Ohtani
This was a tough selection this year. But for me, it once again came down to just how special Shohei Ohtani is. From the World Baseball Classic, the awesome strikeout moment of Trout, and then the big season doing both, pitching and hitting (again!), at a high level. Ohtani's year was huge.
And then - oh yeah! - there is that $700M deal he just grabbed.
Honorable Mention: Simone Biles; Caitlin Clark; Nikola Jokic, A'Ja Wilson; Noah Lyles; Lionel Messi; Patrick Mahomes; and, LeBron James
THE FINAL COUNTDOWN...
My 2023 was a grind. No, check that, it was a slug fight with just about any and everything.
At times, it really didn't feel like there was an opposition. Just a mere surrounding of everything - relying on you, depending on you, pulling on you, and in various ways, testing your breaking point.
Oh, stop complaining...
Truth be told, and that's all I ever do on this stupid site I've shared with you all for so long - anxiety reigned within me for my 2023. As you can imagine, and maybe you shared that experience, 2023 was an absence of peace that allowed anxiety - and at times, apathy - to enter the cracks of the soul, eventually competing with love and gratitude, the greatest sources that drive humankind.
There were days that I felt like I merely existed, hoping that things "didn't go wrong" rather than attacking the day with getting it right. Being salt and light felt like too much effort. "Competing every day", as I like to say, had "days off".
There were moments I truly felt numb, unable to feel for things, people, and topics that I often cared about, because apathy was the simplest of the options, and provided the least resistance or complexity to an already distorted understanding of whatever was going on.
What's the point?! often reigned within.
I learned how to un-trust in a big way. People. Processes. The beauty of miracles!
2023 smashed my ability to dream by experience. I endured the responsibility and the effects of scenarios that weren't my own doing. There was constant pressure to decide on the latest decision or conflict that boiled down to me - sometimes out of habit. A constant pull for my leadership, where I just didn't have it. And at times, didn't want it. The world around me in 2023 always moved from fire to fire, rage to rage, uncertainty to uncertainty, from worry to worry - and somehow, so did the world within my bubble, and within my daily experience. No matter how much I tried to compartmentalize or limit access to it; no matter how hard I tried to stay in control; nothing ever felt whole or unbroken in 2023. Even when things weren't as wrong, as they were not quite right.
A warning signI missed the good part, then I realizedI started lookin' and the bubble burstI started lookin' for excuses"Warning Sign" by Coldplay
Honestly, I very much disliked many parts of 2023. I wouldn't do them over. I also wouldn't change them. I wouldn't erase my experiences through them. I can't describe it thoroughly in words. All I know is that as I write this review, what does give me peace is that through it all, there is a feeling that God has me placed exactly where he needed me this year. Truthfully, I likely missed so many warning signs.
I missed them. I missed good moments that I just didn't embrace or take advantage of enough.
I probably missed opportunities to act. Which really stings me the most.
This Christmas season, I've really embraced the story of Joseph - you know, in Joseph and Mary, and Jesus? Yeeeeeeah, that guy. I know, who focuses on Joseph during Christmas? C'mon, dude...
But seriously, even if you're not of faith, I urge you to explore the perspective of Joseph.
It's a fascinating outlook of a guy who had plans, and comfort, and suddenly, he's upended by so much, that likely would've led to anyone doing or showing signs of what I endured in 2023 - flirting with apathy, disconnecting, unsure about the realism of integrity for certain modes, revolting, and likely much more. For him, to much greater lengths and circumstances, of course.
Uhhhhh, why me? Why am I stepdad to Jesus Christ?!!!!
Spoiler alert - Joseph was the man. And it's inspiring to take from and to understand. Often times, when we're in it, how difficult is it to see through it? And, we never think about how different we'll be on the other side. Or even worse, stay in the moment - like truly stay in the moment, to not miss the moments or the opportunities, because we're eagerly scrambling for the first exit out of it.
Leaving 2023 - I am a much different person. I really am. For the better. Yes, I say that after several paragraphs of complaining and likely pouting...even pushing the story of Joseph on Christmas. Butttttttt again, I'm just being very transparent. And vulnerable for those who share a similar story.
And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope.Romans 5:3-4
As the holidays have rolled around, and my year really has hit the brakes to one specific focal point that compares to smashing the brake pad on a speeding eighteen-wheeler careening out of control, it really has given me time to reflect, recharge, and even re-engage. In those moments of frustration throughout 2023; of despair; of apathy; of disappointment; of fatigue; of searching for peace - I immensely regret what I missed.
I have to confess - I missed so much. Damn, I missed so much - because I was defeated by what is a privilege - pressure! Or, the responsibility to be activated, or serve as an agency, for good. For positive. For light. I admit it again, in search of peace, I was defeated.
In just a few days, my life changes again - more on that, likely in a post in 2024. At the end of 2023, going through it all, I'm ready for that. And that's because of my 2023. Likely more so than anything else I saw coming or could have endured.
At the end of 2023, I'm honestly, at peace. What I've been searching for all year.
The world is an unforgiving place right now. In 2023, that has been no secret. But there is good. It likely is harder to get to and hold onto than probably any other time in history - I don't know, it just feels like it.
Nonetheless, I can't wait to utilize these new tools sharpened in the tribulations of 2023, to produce more light, or at the very least, allow others to explore theirs.
2023 was my reset year. I eventually got there. I rediscovered peace.
In 2024, how will you explore, capture, and hold onto peace?
Happy New Year!