This morning I woke hoping to see the sun rise brightly. Instead, I woke up tired from only a handful of hours of sleep, a gloomy day outside my window in Brooklyn, and a dark cloud over my heavy heart. I woke up feeling angry, confused, sad, and overly worried about what the next four years could hold for the country I’ve spent my entire life calling home.
I’ve always been proud to call myself an American. My parents are both immigrants from Poland and left communism for a better life in their early twenties. They left one country for what was dubbed “the greatest country on Earth.” They left for an opportunity, for freedom, and for a future that they couldn’t have under a communist regime. And thanks to them, I’ve been lucky enough to call myself an American citizen for 25 years.
Or so I thought.
Today I woke and I wasn’t so sure. I wasn’t sure I was proud to be here, to live here, and to represent this country. Today I woke up frustrated with the polls, the media, the friends that didn’t vote, and the fact that I was not prepared for this outcome. I was not prepared to wake up being embarrassed to be an American.
Still, I forced myself out of bed. I forced myself to try and find some hope where it seemed there was none. I tried to put on a brave face to be strong for those who are likely more scared than me. I tried to tell myself that blocking out the hate – that the country proved it has – starts with me. It starts with you. And then I looked at myself between applying shades of mascara and cried.
I cried for the parents having to explain the result to their children. I cried for my generation who will have to explain the result to our grandchildren. I cried for those that voted because of tabloids and Facebook posts instead of facts. I cried because we were so close to salvation and now we’re in a living nightmare. I cried because America is an SNL skit whose run time is four years. I cried because a woman was 80% projected to win the presidency, and then she didn’t.
I let it out – like many of us should – and then I put that brave face on. I got ready, remembered there’s still work to do, and I walked out the door into the unknown. I walked out with my head down, dragged by my heavy heart, but I was still going forward like we all must. I walked into the misty New York City day and felt the despair in the wind. I kept it together reading the news on the subway. I put on the acoustic Spotify playlist instead of the audio book about the Holocaust I had been reading. I kept it together because we all have to.
This morning I woke up feeling things I never expected. I was never very political. I had to research everything on the ballot and read everything I could to make sure I would be voting out of knowledge and not ignorance. I never thought I’d see this outcome. I never thought I’d cry over it. I never thought that this would be my America. And I fear that it certainly is not my America, your America, or if we look at the popular vote — most of America.
I got off the subway and I couldn’t breathe. The idea of walking into work like nothing ever happened was excruciating. The idea of who the world thinks we are is horrifying. So I stood on the street corner avoiding crossing it. I debated calling my mom. I debated calling in sick. I debated finding a protest somewhere in the city. I felt lost even though I’ve walked this way to work for over six months. Nothing about this path felt normal.
Waking up today wasn’t like any other. I know many oppose this view, and that’s perfectly ok. I respect that you woke up relieved while those like me woke up unsure what to do next. I welcome your point of view because we’re going to have to work together so we don’t tear the world apart. I hope you give us time to mourn and that you are kind when we are ready to take the next step. We cannot do this alone. You cannot do this alone. Together we must trump the hate. Together we must find a way to keep swimming.
And on this rainy street corner outside of the subway, I looked up to the World Trade Center and remembered the most important thing of this entire election, “When they go low, we go high.”
So keep your head up high today, America. Let’s keep the country United, instead of Divided.