I was in sixth grade when September 11th happened. I don’t remember a lot from that day, but I do remember the feeling of being scared. I knew the adults were scared. I knew something bad was happening. I didn’t know what the Twin Towers were or what terrorism meant, but I knew everything was suddenly going to be different.
When I went home that night, my Dad told me to write down my feelings and what had happened that day. You’re going to want to remember this, he said. I didn’t follow his advice, but I regret it now. I wish I could remember exactly what I was thinking and feeling that day.
Now, 15 years later, I feel that same kind of fear again, deep in my gut. The adults are scared, and now I’m actually one of them. I know that something bad is happening. I know that everything is suddenly going to be different.
But this time, I am going to remember.
This might sound incredibly self-absorbed, but I think I’ll remember the haircut the most.
I decided to get my hair cut. And not a little trim, a big 6 inches off kind of cut. I went from long curls to a lob. I mean, why not? It was Election Day. Hillary was going to become President. Might as well rock a new look, right?
And then, six hours later when the results came in and the polls closed and the panic started to rise, I couldn’t help but wonder if my haircut had anything to do with it. I hadn’t had a significant haircut since Hillary announced she was running for President. I jinxed it. My hair was the good luck charm, and I took it away.
I know, it’s ridiculous. But I’m a superstitious person. I wear the same jersey on NFL Sundays until my team loses. And anyway, how else would you explain the blind side vote that caused our country to crumble right before my very eyes?
Ridiculous or not, I will never be able to look at my hair the same way again. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to wear it below the shoulders. Because every time I look in the mirror I’m reminded that Hillary lost and my dream is dead.
I knew when the first results started coming in. I was at my parents’ house and was supposed to be live tweeting the results, and I knew right away that it wasn’t going to be good. I didn’t want to panic, but I was because how could this be happening? This isn’t happening, right? Everyone told me to stay calm, that it was still early. Things would turn around. They had to turn around. It was still early.
It feels like someone died.
That’s what I told my mom the morning after. I took off of work ahead of time, thinking I’d be up all night celebrating and would need a day to recuperate. Instead I was up all night crying.
My dream. Our dream. The dream of a woman becoming president. Gone. Just like that.
30 years of experience, the most qualified presidential nominee we’ve ever had, the clear favorite. Done. In a blink of an eye. Poof. Gone.
I wore a blazer to the polls. I was the only one there. I had wondered if that was a bad sign. I bought thin mints from some Girl Scouts in front of the polling place. Thin mints. Forever ruined.
I took a hike earlier that morning and listened to my favorite podcast talk about how the numbers looked good. There was nothing to worry about, nothing to fear. Get out and vote, but don’t stress.
That’s what’s so unbelievably irritating. How did nobody see this coming? How did we not have any warning signs? Where were the numbers? Where were the rally cries? I feel like we were robbed in the middle of the night and woke up in the morning to find all of our possessions stolen. How did this happen? How did it all go so wrong?
It’s not just that she lost. It’s who she lost to. Trump is a horrible person. He has mocked the disabled, bragged about sexual assault, and threatened to ban entire religions from entering our country.
The worst of the worst? The people who support him. Because most of them accept the fact that he’s a horrible person, but they voted for him anyway. The people who think that this country is like some sort of football game and you support your team no matter what. Even if your team sucks. Even if your team is a garbage fire. You line up. You turn the game on. You make your chips and dip and elect the least qualified, most inflammatory person we’ve ever seen as President of the United States.
It’s not just that she lost. It’s that he won. It’s that hatred and fear won.
I get stuck on that a lot. The people who voted for him. The way they could justify it in their minds. I want to shake my fist and never talk to them again, but that’s just ignorance. That’s taking the easy way out.
I need to understand. I know this to be true. Healing will not begin until we make an honest effort to understand and respect each other. You can’t criticize others into growth. You need empathy. You need to hear them out. You need a dialogue. Not just shouting at each other, but a true and real dialogue.
As impossible as it sounds, we need to come together.
I think back to John Oliver who said reminded us that this is not normal. None of this is normal. Don’t forget. Don’t allow yourself to become desensitized. Don’t accept this as our every day.
It’s hard, because life goes on. There are bills and work projects and family obligations and you can almost forget that America is a slowly sinking ship. You can almost put it right out of your mind.
Except you can’t. Because it’s there. Like some bad dream you can’t wake up from.
The time for inactivity is gone. The time for acceptance is gone. This is what we have now. This is the cards that we have been dealt- the cards we asked for.
What we do now will define our country for years to come. What we do now is all that matters.
As a middle-upper class white woman, I have no real claim to be upset. My marriage will not be threatened, my family is not going to be deported. My life may not really change from a Trump presidency.
But others will.
I have so much privilege, and because of that, I have a responsibility and an obligation to help others. I have to use my privilege as a launch pad. I have to do my part. I cannot stand in my place of privilege and ignore what is happening to those around me. I have to give back and show up for others. That is what we need to do now.
To be clear, we need action. We do not need empty words and posts on social media. Don’t share this article and think you’re doing your part. You’re not. You’re contributing to the noise. The time for words and hashtags is over. Do something. Answers are not happening on the internet. Answers are on the street. They’re in your workplace. They’re sitting at your kitchen table. Speak and spread goodness. Help others. Donate money. Volunteer. Get offline and make a difference in the real world.
Where do we go from here?
That’s the question, isn’t it?
Tomorrow, Trump will be sworn in as President of the United States. It will be a sad day. It will be a painful day. It will be a historic day.
My favorite quote is by Mother Teresa, “If you want to change the world, go home and love your family.”
Love someone tomorrow, friends. Make dinner for your family. Call up an old friend. Write someone a love letter. Snuggle with your dog. Drink tea and read a novel and remember what goodness feels like.
Change starts with love. It starts with understanding and peace and empathy. Stay offline. Don’t respond to the Facebook posts. Don’t watch the news if it’s too painful. Love someone instead. Bring light instead. Bring joy and peace instead.
Choose love. Today and tomorrow. Keep the faith and remember who you are.
Be better, tomorrow. We need you at your best.
Jillian is part of the Contributing Writer Network at Thirty on Tap. To apply to become a Contributing Writer, please click HERE.