Thank you, Hillary.

Dear Hillary,

I am not a morning person, but I bounded out of bed at 6 AM on Tuesday, filled with excitement and pride at the thought of finally casting my vote for you — the most supremely qualified candidate I have ever been alive to see, who by chance also happened to be a woman. After months of phone banking, fundraising, networking, Facebook posting, and door-knocking — and also quiet conversations with friends who were genuinely undecided — I didn’t just know that I was ready for you to be our President; I was convinced the country was too.

By Tuesday night, I had discovered the limits of waterproof mascara, crying unfettered, ugly tears in a DC bar, comforted only by the fact that I was surrounded by friends who had worked equally hard to see you elected. There weren’t enough whiskey shots in that bar to numb the visceral fear, pain, and sadness we all felt (I know this because we tried the approach, unsuccessfully).

In the weeks and months ahead, I promise to devote myself with renewed energy and passion to “doing all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can” — just as you implored us. I will go back to my day job in global development with new dedication to the causes that you have championed your entire life: gender equality, women’s rights, and fighting for an AIDS-free generation. As much as it might make for uncomfortable conversations, I will talk to my relatives who cast their votes for your opponent. I will work even harder to listen to their perspectives, while also pushing them to speak out against the horrifically hateful rhetoric that their candidate frequently espoused or encouraged throughout this campaign.

I will remind myself every day that just by virtue of being white and educated, I hold an extremely privileged position in this country. I will do all that I can to use that privilege to fight for those on the margins, who woke up on Wednesday even more scared — and with good reason — for their jobs, their safety, their freedoms, their partners, and their families. I will spend more time volunteering in my community for programs I love like Girls on the Run, which teaches young girls that they are strong and powerful and worthy of aspiring to their biggest dreams — even President of the United States. In the next election, I will work even harder to support progressive candidates — male and female — who like you champion the values of inclusivity and tolerance.

But today, I want to pause and simply say thank you. There is a reason they call what you do “public service”; you have embodied the unwavering spirit of servitude for decades, even when large swaths of our country have not rewarded you for it. Thank you for being a wonk and sweating the details. To those of us who work in policy, your defense of the details and of building policy proposals that can actually work in practice is an essential part of your appeal. Thank you for paving the way for women in leadership, not just in politics but in any career. The misogyny that I have seen in my own workplaces — sometimes overt, but more often subtle or unconscious — tells me that we still have so much work to do, but I know that the fights my peers and I wage today are infinitely smoother and easier than what you have already endured on our behalf, and we stand so proudly on your shoulders. Thank you for your courage, your dedication to those around you, your willingness to reach across the aisle, and your willingness to fight for those you have never met.

Yesterday, I admittedly did not go to work, feeling literally and metaphorically hung over from election night. But then I turned on the TV and there you were, resplendent in your suffragette purple, speaking with unwavering dignity, grace, and poise in an unimaginably difficult moment in your life. I started to text a friend, “I don’t know how she does it,” but then I erased the message, because of course it was how you did it. It was so perfectly in keeping with how you’ve led and acted your entire life.

The next few years are going to be difficult and painful, no doubt. There’s a part of me that just wants to wallow a little longer. But if we all can muster even one-tenth of what you showed on Wednesday, I know that we can still move this country forward. If nothing else, I hope we can make you proud.

With love and admiration,

Erin