The One Nice Thing I Will Say About The Great American Mistake.
On November 9, 2016 I woke up with a hangover. Literally. I drank two bottles of wine in a 6 hour period because I couldn’t handle the sea of red I was seeing unfold on the election night map. Probably not the healthiest of coping mechanisms I admit, but it was the best I could do at the time. As you can imagine, I was expecting a very different outcome. I was expecting to witness the shattering of the biggest and highest glass ceiling. I was expecting to cry tears of joy. Instead I cried for a different reason. I cried because I was angry. I was upset that my candidate, a woman I have admired for as long as I could remember, lost. I also cried because I felt a wave of sadness and confusion come over me in the hours and days and weeks that followed. My hangover was more than just physical.
It was a tough initial couple of days. I went through Kübler-Ross’s 5 stages multiple times. I, like many others, had a difficult time accepting a reality that I now can begrudgingly say I accept. Donald J. Trump will be the 45th President of these United States. He will be our President. My President. Unless the Electoral College pleasantly surprises me in the coming days, it is our nation’s reality. It is not a reality I will ever be at peace with, nor is it a reality I will accept without protest.
Before the election I thought I had an idea of how I saw my career unfolding. I would work for social service agency or a progressive cause or two for a couple of years, then possibly attend law school, followed by maybe selling my soul and spending some time in the private sector to pay off my legal education, then I would jump back into the nonprofit sector then eventually the public sector. On day I would maybe arrive to what I think could possibly be my career goal: A United States Senator.
You may have noticed a lot of uncertainty in way I describe that original timeline. Some of it comes from the fact that one can never be totally certain about how life unfolds. The other comes from a nag in the back of my mind that some days is hard to silence and other days triggers annoying episodes of anxiety. This is the nag of a voice that says ‘who are you to think you can be successful’. A nag that makes me question my own abilities and sometimes causes me to self-sabotage. A nag that reminds me I am a woman, an immigrant, a first-gen millennial, and have a name that even people with Ph.D.s have a difficult time pronouncing. A nag that last month was validated when a man that said sexual assault was acceptable and that immigrants don’t really belong in the room where things happen was elected to lead our nation.
In the days and weeks that followed November 9th, after I recovered from my psychical and emotional hangover, I finally listened to the advice of my usual source of wisdom: my father. After he ran out of ways to cheer me up he just repeated the same words to me as he does time and time again. He told me to get over it. He told me that no matter how many times you fall you must get back on your feet. He told me that I was strong and I would eventually figure things out. As I sat there with my father’s advice in mind I realized that the election of Donald Trump didn’t totally derail my career plans. Instead what it did was force me to get creative and carve out a different route for myself. At that moment I felt the spark that I needed to re-energize and reevaluate. Instead of feeling helpless I felt hopeful in the ability to resist, to protest, to fight, and to advocate for those that need it. The election of Donald Trump has lit a fire under my ass in a way I never expected to and I am thankful for that. What’s more is that my end goal of one day running for office and serving as an elected official remains and remains with more passion than it did on that day in November.
This realization is hardly, and thankfully, not mine alone. According to a recent article in the Washington Post more and more women are looking into running for office as a way of taking matters into their own hands. In that article one line stood out to me most “For young women with more long-standing political ambitions, the election results solidified tier plans — while also laying bare the obstacles they may face.”
Do I realize that there will be challenges along the way? Umm, duhh. I don’t exactly have the pedigree of a politician. I know that I lack the resources and connections that many who come from more affluent families have. I am sometimes more honest and blunt than I should be. I also know that there are pictures out there from a sorority mixer where I wore a Barack Obama mask and proceed to drink a lot more than I should have. Hopefully, by then the mistakes of millennial youth that are chronicled on social media will be one of those “kids do stupid things sometimes” kinds of things. Some challenges, however, will he harder to overcome than others.
For as long as I have admired Hillary Clinton, I have dreamed about the possibility of maybe one day running for office. However, despite this not-so secret ambition of mine, I always felt self conscious about expressing my aspirations. This is partly due to my own insecurities, I often wonder if I am smart enough, strong enough, or good enough for anything I choose to undertake. This is also partly due to the ridiculousness of society. Unfortunately, I learned early on that having ambition and a vagina make things far more difficult than they actually should be. I was once told at a job interview that I seem like an ambitious young woman. Those 10 seconds replayed in my mind for a couple of days because I was unsure if they meant that as a compliment or as an insult. Was I on the right path or was I doing too much? Let’s be honest, ambition is not respected and admired in women in the same way it is in men. I don’t pretend to not know this fact nor do I not understand the implications of the double standards that I am constantly subject to as a result of chromosomes and societal gender norms. I know that addressing blatant and subtle sexism will be among my biggest obstacles.
Do I also realize that such excitement and support for my fellow females that aspire to run for office will also translate to more competition down the line? Of course I do. But I also stand by the famous words of Madeleine Albright “There is a special place in hell for women who do not help other women.” Stay nasty ladies. Hope to see you on the campaign trail someday.