From Issue 1: Shell Shock

Carolyn Grace 22|Philadelphia, PA|@lets_saygrace

I had caught a 9:30 PM bus from New York to Philadelphia the night before so that I could wake up, vote at 7:00 AM, and go back to work in New York. Pennsylvania was that important of a state. I had to make my voice heard.

I was so amped to vote for a woman for President. Hitting the button in the polling booth was electrifying. My mind was racing. YES. I’m here and I’m voting not only for female representatives and female senators, but for a female President. And that is huge. I’m doing this today.

Even after leaving the booth, I was energized. This was already such a historical moment. Americans got to contribute to cracking that glass ceiling by voting for a female President. We punched that thing and it felt like, that night, it would completely shatter.

But that didn’t happen.

It. just. didn’t. happen.

The feeling was…how can I describe it? It was like someone throwing a ball to you, and you’re reaching for it… and it’s not impossible to grab from where your hand is, right? If you just reach a little bit higher, you’re gonna catch it. But you graze the top of it with your fingers and you miss it.

We were right there as a nation. It was so close. But for whatever reason, we didn’t catch it.

Watching the electoral votes come in, I didn’t think the race was gonna be that close. I didn’t think Trump was gonna be that close. I didn’t think that the position we were in as a nation was different from the headlines I’d read in the New York Times or the segments from Last Week Tonight. I was in a political and pop cultural bubble. And I didn’t plan on venturing beyond it.

For me, a significant part of this election encompassed this more universal idea of feminism, of the glass ceiling and breaking the glass ceiling. For the past year, and especially during that Tuesday, it felt like so many people were punching at that ceiling. Punching it and punching it. And it’s breaking in certain areas and cracking… but it hasn’t totally collapsed. Whatever the popular vote count was, 61 million people I think, it felt like those 61 million people were punching this ceiling to death, with chips and shards falling here and there. We thought Hillary was going to deliver that one final blow.

I pictured myself at the Javits Center, looking up at the glass ceiling for hours and hours and hours like, “Come on! We’ve been smashing this thing with all of our might! Why isn’t it falling yet?” We thought we had landed enough punches, that the ceiling would come down. We see pieces falling, and any minute now the whole thing is gonna collapse.

So we just stand there. And we’re standing. And we’re waiting.

This is what watching the election felt like.

The next thing I know, it’s 1:00 or 2:00 AM and people are leaving. They’re being told to leave the Javits Center and go home. I could physically feel my stomach drop. The satisfaction that I felt that Tuesday morning had been totally erased.

I fell asleep in front of CNN, completely dejected, not wanting to wake up and realize it wasn’t a bad dream. But I woke up at 6:30 and checked my phone, and Google had on the front page that Donald Trump won the presidency. I burst into tears.

The subway to work that morning was eerily silent. New Yorkers were stone-faced. Throughout the rest of that Wednesday, I kept crying at different points. I’d read news articles or personal accounts from friends, all about how people felt even less safe and less valued than they did before. My heart broke several times that day.

But the more I read or noticed people’s reactions, the more I became not only overwhelmed by the passion for this election, but incited. It didn’t feel inspiring yet, but it stoked a fire.

I decided that I couldn’t be consumed by this anymore. I took my time to feel dejected and upset, but I couldn’t let that last longer than the day. In my mind, the new work had to be done now. The new change had to start tomorrow, at the latest. I could become complacent from my sadness and frustration. Or I could recognize where I went astray and do something about it. It was a personal and national wake up call.

More Americans need to realize that the betterment of this country will come when we eschew our self-righteousness and strive instead to understand, and create, change. We need to start with bettering ourselves. So this is how I plan to take my visceral reactions and turn them into action:

My eyes will peer into other perspectives. I will read more works from authors of different races, genders, sexual orientations, religions, political affiliations. I will see how they see our nation. My eyes will also identify the injustices around me. I will not glance in the other direction. I will look out for those who do not feel respected or safe.

My ears will listen to the voices of the voiceless. The ones who feel silenced by our nation. The ones who cannot out shout. The ones whose throats burn raw red just to be heard.

My mouth will speak words of love and tolerance. More often than I think necessary. It will use words that engage, not exclude. It will tell the nation that I will not accept words that divide or incite hate.

My hands will raise. As a volunteer. As a sign of solidarity. They will extend in friendship. They will sign petitions. Make donations. Write stories.

And soon, they will shatter ceilings.

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