Going to work on Wednesday after Election Day was weird. I have tried to come up a word that seems more all-encompassing and less dismissive, but “weird” pretty much sums it up for me. It felt like the world had descended into imitating apocalyptic, dystopian fiction and had been completely thrown off its destined course.
Being on the subway was like being at a wake. Everyone in total silence, staring straight ahead, saddened expressions and averted eyes, scared of accidentally looking at someone who had voted the “wrong way” -- even in New York.
Arriving at work was like being at a funeral Mass. We all remained respectfully silent for the first few hours, privately scrolling through our individual social media feeds, stuffing our brains with the mass media disbelief. The silence broke as we realized that our inboxes were dead silent -- nothing coming in or going out.
Then we began to talk, to share, to well up, to read fragments of stories to each other. Someone brought a large quantity of cake. The working world was at a standstill, and comfort food felt necessary.
Like the obligatory tea and 5,000 sandwiches at Irish funerals that are passed around all day on plates, but sit abandoned on arm chairs and coffee tables because how can we eat? We feel too sick to eat.
Meetings were postponed until next week. Phone calls pushed to the next day. All plans left on hold as the country caught its breath.
It was weird. Indescribably, horribly, inescapably weird.
Over the following days, it was all we talked about -- among friends, colleagues, total strangers. The sheer volume of sadness, anger, frustration, confusion and utter disappointment was and remains overwhelming. As divided as the country has now made itself known to be, the mixture of emotions beholden by the attendees of this national funeral are similarly diverse.
I encountered friends who voted third party in an effort to place emphasis on the failure of the system in place. I encountered others who didn’t vote at all because they feel it was pointless unless residing in a swing state.
I encountered some who voted for Donald Trump out of fear, or a panicked need for change. I mostly encountered Hillary Clinton supporters, walking around the city under their collective cloud of devastation.
What has been the most revelatory thing to me in the last week is how personal the vote is. The reasons that I wanted Hillary to win might be drastically different to why someone else did. The reasons why I find Trump as a president so completely terrifying might not even register with someone else.
As someone who couldn’t even vote, but still lives here, it seems more important now than ever to listen to each other, understand each other, and pull together.
As the news stories of newly appointed and equally abhorrent White House staff, a national influx in hate crimes and the celebratory parades of the Klan pour in, how do we find happiness on a day to day basis to keep our heads above water? To not totally drown in hopelessness?
I think it was around mid-afternoon on Friday that I laughed at something unrelated to recent events, and had a brief moment of total abandon before coming crashing back down to Earth with an overwhelming sense of guilt for having had a spell of joy -- but we need those, BIGLY.
I’m finding proactive joy in signing petitions, supporting protests, and spreading the word to encourage donations to organizations like Planned Parenthood. Important note: you can donate in Mike Pence’s name so that he will get a notification thanking him for his contribution. I highly recommend doing this -- it’s a win/win.
I’m finding distractive joy in the usual millennial outlets of distraction -- otherwise known as Netflix, Spotify, Hulu and Amazon. Submerge yourself in art, music, good writing, literature and harness the power of the arts in times of great struggle. It may seem like little in the way of silver lining or lemonade right now, but under great pressure comes great creation -- comes diamonds.
I’m finding social joy in my best friend of all time -- wine. Kidding. Sort of.
I’m really finding social joy in surrounding myself with people who are feeling similarly wounded yet resilient. People who agree that this will be a hard four years, but that there is a good fight to be fought. People who are by no means dismissing how completely heartbreaking this is, but who are also unwilling to stand by and watch the world burn.
As for romantic joy? I made an internal personal declaration earlier this year that I would only date feminists for the rest of my life. Real feminists.
I had enough of men who claimed to be of the feminist persuasion, but upon feeling any kind of threat to their masculinity would retaliate, resist or attempt to belittle. I had an ex-boyfriend who, during an argument, barked at me to “stop with your feminist BS.”
At the time, I brushed it off. I wonder where he is now, and how he feels about his contribution to making another woman feel like less than she is.
Now, watching as the glass ceiling that came so unbearably close to being eternally shattered, remains quivering in its frame, that personal declaration becomes stronger and more of a constant, externalized announcement. This is no longer a matter of preference, it is a requirement -- one that we should all be ranking highly on our list of what makes a human worthwhile, and worth inclusion in your life, no matter how long they’re going to be there.
We may be feeling tired and burnt out, but like a phoenix, we will rise again from the ashes of this election. We will find our moments of joy, our forms of dedication to the cause, and equally necessary forms of occasional escape.
We will find the people we want standing next to us, and it will become abundantly clear who will no longer want or need. Onwards.