Sometime this past summer - probably during or directly following the Democratic National Convention - I flipped my calendar forward to January to check what day of the week January 20th fell on. I had missed both of President Obama's inaugurations because of annual travel I do for work, and I did not want to miss the inauguration of the first female president.
I noted with relief that January 20th fell on a Friday, when I was assured to be back in the office. I put a reminder on the date in all caps: "INAUGURATION DAY."
Of course, things didn't work out the way that I had thought they would. Now that date looms like a specter, my calendar reminder acting as a cruel joke: "Hey, you thought that you'd get to see a woman become the leader of the free world! Yeah, right."
Like so many people, I've been emotionally raw since the election. This has displayed itself most clearly through the way I have been consuming media that usually bring me comfort - books and tv and movies are hitting me in an emotional way I have never experienced before. (And I am a known crier.) I was in the middle of a rewatch of The West Wing in early November; it took me a full month before I felt like I could watch an episode again and then I sobbed through the entire thing. Moana, a Disney movie about a teenager finding her purpose (in which nothing sad actually really happens) left me with one of those crying-hangover headaches. I'm a mess, all the time.
I also feel like I'm constantly teetering on the edge of some invisible cliff, trying to find the balance between being informed and engaged and activated but not boiling over into rage. And fear. I'm scared and stressed and feel like I'm going to vomit every time I read the news. And I'm ashamed, too, because I know that had the election swung a different way I would have relaxed. I would have exhaled. I would have thought that we had somehow dealt the misogyny and racism and hatred that so much of America demonstrated throughout this bruising campaign a fatal blow. When of course, none of that would have vanished even if Hillary had won the election. People in less privileged positions than mine know this and feel this way all the time and have for centuries. Yet it took me 31 years to truly understand that, and I'm so embarrassed that it took so long.
Saying goodbye to the Obama Administration this week has been hard for all the obvious reasons. I'll be forever thankful that I was able to spend my twenties with a president who respects women, who believes in inclusion, who is smart and eloquent and funny and most importantly is a truly good person. I'm grateful that I spent the formative years of my career with powerful women like Michelle Obama and Hillary Clinton to look up to. I'm terrified about the future but when I think of the generation of children who were raised with the Obama family in the White House demonstrating love and hope, I feel a little better. A little.
I have no idea where we're going to go from here as a country. I'm terrified about what the future holds. And I know that the naive optimism I've held for most of my life is never coming back. But I also know that I have found a power and activism in me that I didn't know existed before, and I'm going to use that going forward as a force for good.
I kept that reminder on my calendar instead of deleting it, even though every time I look at it I feel queasy. It reminds me that there is so much work to be done, and that I have a voice. I'm going to use it.