On November 9, 2016, I woke up with a deep pain in my chest. I felt twinges run through my body. My head hurt, my jaw was clenched. I must have had one nasty dream, I thought. I looked around, one cat on my left, another cat on my chest, and picked up my phone. I scrolled through the endless New York Times notifications I received throughout the night and there it was: Donald Trump has been elected president of the United States.
I could hear Ralphie from A Christmas Story yelling, “Ohhhhhhhh fuuuuuuuuuuuudge.”
Let me rewind a bit. While an undergrad at The University of Texas at Austin, I was all about that public affairs life. Running a student government campaign, serving on the university’s cabinet as health chair, volunteering nonstop, working polling locations in my neighborhood, supporting local campaigns, serving as a delegate for the DNC at the age of 21. I loved being so involved, so in-tune with the issues. I was fueled by the love I had for my country.
Later on, I started to slip. I took the LSATs but never went to law school. I thought about transferring from the healthcare team to the public affairs team at the PR company where I worked but decided to stay where I was. I became involved in the education movement while working at Teach For America but left a year later. I volunteered less and less. My [now ex] husband worked his way into the political world in 2007 and little by little, as politics took him away from me, I began to rebel against them. Public affairs, in a sense, was the other woman. And because of that, I wanted nothing to do with her.
Of course, I voted in every election. I felt giddy every time I got that “I Voted” sticker. I shed massive tears of joy as I saw Obama take office the first and second time. And I was getting ready to do that again for Hillary, our first woman president. A woman who supported my beliefs and values and encouraged all our futures. In fact, let me digress a bit, I imagined popping bottles of champagne, laughter, happiness, magical confetti falling from the sky…and somewhere in the room there was queso. But that didn’t happen. Not even close.
What also didn’t happen? I didn’t take part. Now this isn’t a “I should have done more” post. This is a “why is this hitting me so hard” post. As I sit here and think about it all, my eyes are welling up. I didn’t really talk about the election. I had my opinions but kept them to myself. I felt pain in my heart every time Donald Trump said something racist or completely off base. I worried as I heard Latinos were leaning toward a man who didn’t respect them. But I didn’t say anything about it. I kept quiet. I kept rebelling.
Soon after waking up on November 9 and realizing our fate, I sent an e-mail to my therapist to tell her I couldn’t come in for my weekly appointment. I couldn’t even get out of bed. She urged me to come and just sit if I needed to. Ugh. I guess I could do that.
On my way to work, I sat on the subway and cried. Where is this coming from? Why am I so emotional? I got to work and saw the pain in my colleagues’ eyes. What were we going to do? We were in trouble, weren’t we?
A couple hours later, I walked into my therapist’s office. I couldn’t even speak because I was weeping so hard. After a few minutes, she looked at me and said, “I have to say…I’m surprised to see you so emotional. You haven’t mentioned the election once in this room.” It’s true. I hadn’t.
I told her about how I’ve been walking past the Trump building on my way to work for nearly ten years almost every single day. And how for the first time in all those years, I felt unsafe. I felt uncomfortable. I explained how upsetting it was to see that some of my Latino family and friends had voted for a man who was outright racist. I shared how worried I was for them because I didn’t know if they understood the consequences of their decision. I revealed how sad I was for them because they voted for someone who hasn’t shown any kind of respect for our beautiful heritage. I admitted how scared I was to see Donald Trump’s presidency energize white supremacy. How worried I was about what that meant for me and my loved ones. I disclosed how frustrated I felt about how my leader is someone who doesn’t seem to value anything that I do. I confessed to her that I had done nothing.
“You’re good at being fueled by moments like this,” she said. “It’s what you do. So…how are you going to fuel this?”
I miss it. I miss being involved. I miss taking part in educating the community about issues that are important. I miss having opinions and being vocal about them. I miss defending my values. I miss protecting my loved ones. I miss getting my hands dirty and helping wherever I’m needed.
The thing is, if Hillary had won, I’m not sure I would have been fueled like I am today. I’m not sure I would have remembered the advocate in me…the person I used to be. I think life would have gone on as normal and I would have continued to rebel out of habit.
I struggle with this thought because I’d much rather have Hillary Clinton be my president. But I have to find some way, some how to make this new reality work for me. I need to fuel it. Plus, we’re only given challenges we can handle, right?
This past week, I’ve been told to deal with the election results. I’ve been told to move on. I’ve been called a sore loser. I’ve been called a hoodlum, a keyboard warrior. Here’s what’s what: I will not deal. I will not move on. I will be a sore loser if it means standing up for my beliefs. Call me a hoodlum and a keyboard warrior. I will not stop. Fear and safety are not things to overlook. Respect and love are not things to push aside.
So, look. I’m sorry for stepping out all these years. I’m sorry for retreating and simply watching the story unfold. I’m sorry if I’ve let you down. But I’m back. I promise I’m back. I’m not moving to Canada. You will hear me again. I will be involved in moving this country forward. I will use this fuel for good and to support you and you and you. I’m here. I will help America love again. And I hope you will join me.
As Cheryl Strayed said, “You don’t have a right to the cards you believe you should have been dealt. You have an obligation to play the hell out of the ones you’re holding.”
I’m all in, guys. Let’s get shit done. Yes.