24 hours ago*…I was giddy. I was excited. I was optimistic. I was fairly confident. 24 hours ago, I was brainstorming fun patriotic-themed dishes to have for dinner in preparation of watching the election results with some of my close friends. 24 hours ago, I decided to make a shirt at the last minute [because that’s what I do] that said “Nasty Woman.” across the chest in glittery gold letters. 24 hours ago, I was listening to the the soundtrack of “Hamilton” on repeat [I suppose that’s not too out of the norm for me these days though] and paying attention to every single lyric, ready for that same type of history to happen. 24 hours ago, my friend brought over fun copies of “Election Night Bingo” [yes, it’s a thing] for us to play as we watched some of our favorite news anchors bring in the returns.

As my night went on the sheets of bingo sat around untouched. I watched the television and scrolled through social media in disbelief. Dinner was ordered and picked up from down the street; there were no cute dishes to be made. The glitter on my shirt was fading away. The confidence I was once wearing slowly turned into fear and confusion. Worried messages from friends and my constant family group text continued to be flooded with questions…and [inappropriate] four-letter words. I cried. I laughed a little in disbelief. I cried more. I FaceTimed with my mom [the most incredible female I will ever know] and teared up even more. Around 2:30am, I decided it was time to call it a night and get in bed [with one of my best friends sleeping over because it was clearly too late to go home…and who actually wants to be alone as we let this reality sink in?]. I felt sad, angry and defeated. So many of us did.

Today has been a blur to say the least. I will be honest when I say that I just couldn’t get myself to go into the office. I was on the couch and glued to the news [one of my favorite hobbies actually]. I was wrapped up in a blanket and still had dried tears covering my face. Other than reading articles and looking at Facebook and Twitter [which is anything but healthy + just full of so much toxicity right now], there’s not much I can remember from today. I am okay with that. I don’t really want to remember today. I don’t want to think about today again. And I’ve realized that I can no longer continue to think about what happened 24 hours ago. I have to force myself to think about what is going to happen 24 hours from now. 48 hours. One week. One month. One year. Four years. It’s hard to think too far into the future right now, so I am going to push myself to take it slow.

If I’m going to be taking it slow, I need to figure out…what now? We heal. We look for the good. We act on the good. We talk. We start conversations—with anyone and everyone. We hear each other’s voices and opinions [and especially by finding those people who are so different than us]. We accept. We organize. But most importantly, we do all of this peacefully. There is already so much hatred and division in this country, we must remember to act with grace and understanding. So [another] question…what good comes out of burning an American flag? What good comes from saying things like “#notmypresident” and throwing around more four-letter words with a name attached. What good comes from vandalizing buildings with nasty and hateful graffiti? Well, nothing good comes out of any of that. The truth is, we are Americans, that is our flag, and he is [going to be] our president. We are better than this. This is our new reality. We have to learn to accept that. I haven’t yet, but I will.

Back to my initial question…what now? Now, I think about how grateful I am to live in a democracy. I am in a country where its citizens [men, women, and people of all different races] are able to vote for a leader of their choice. I may not agree with that vote, but how lucky am I to be alive in a time where I can have my voice be heard? In fact, everyone [of legal age] can have their voice be heard—if they so choose. What a beautiful thing. There are millions of people all across the world who don’t have this same luxury [or a right, as it’s properly known] to privately cast a vote for someone. Not only that, but I had the luxury to vote for a woman. Yes, a woman.  When I get discouraged and frustrated [which is unfortunately the norm for me at the moment], I just have to remind myself of this. As I continue to have these difficult conversations with my family, friends and the teens that I work with, I have to do my job as an educator [and potentially someone who they look up to] by reminding them of these rights that we do have as Americans. I have to make sure we remember where we are and the fact that I not only had the right to vote in this election, but also the ability to fill in a bubble on my ballot for the first female presidential candidate.

So, I have to ask again. What now? Well, I don’t have an answer. Why would I? I’m just a 30-year-old young professional originally from the liberal town of Austin who has been making a life for myself in Boston [technically Brookline] these past 6 years. But I mean, that’s not just who I am. I am someone who has an incredibly supportive community of family, friends, and colleagues who share similar beliefs with me. I am someone who has grown up with a strong faith in Judaism. I am someone who believes in real love [and that love is love]. I am someone who has lived with privilege since the day I was born, and is more than aware of it. I am someone who has never been too open or vocal about my personal political views. I am someone who focuses on basic human rights and still doesn’t understand why so many of them are considered to be political issues. I am someone who is accepting and loving and wants to spend so much of my time and energy getting others to be the same. I am someone who loves kids of all ages and cares deeply about them. I am someone who works with teenagers professionally and loves every second of it [even when I’m rolling my eyes half the time and confused by most of the terminology they use]. I am all of these things…and then some. There are millions of other people around this country who are also all of these things…and then some. We are all so different and our differences are what make this country great. We always have and always will believe in, and fight for so many different things. Our diversity is why America is already so great.

Ok, but like really, what now? Right now, I am focusing on being someone who works with teenagers every day. I am focusing on continuing to educate and make my time with them incredibly meaningful, because let me tell you…it is. My teens are the future of our country. Just when I start to feel scared about our incoming leadership, I look at my teens [some of whom are actually part of a new leadership council teen philanthropy program that I am running] and believe. I believe in them. And I believe that with them, we can continue to be better. We have to. We have to set the example. We have to have the conversations—the real scary and difficult ones. We have to let them know that it’s going to be alright. We have to empower them. We have to let them know that they matter—all of them—no matter their race, gender, religion, disabilities, illnesses, or any other [unique] part of their identity. We have to let them know that they will not be forgotten. These teens are our future and they are what’s helping to add fuel to the fire of this fight. My job is literally allowing me to play with fire—but in the best possible way.

Last week my teen philanthropy board was tasked with the assignment of deciding on one issue area/cause for the entire year [that they will later be fundraising for and then turning those dollars into grants allocated to relevant nonprofit organizations]. 26 teens submitted 3 completely different social issues that they felt need attention. Those 26 teens somehow had to spend [not enough] time during our meeting and eventually narrow it down to one. I’m not sure how they managed to find their voice as a whole, but they did. It was beautiful to see. Not only was I completely inspired by the entire process and discussions taking place, I was truly blown away by the issues that each of them submitted prior to our meeting. The things that I feel to be [scarily] important as a young professional are just as important to my teens. They see what’s out there and what needs to be fixed. They are in this fight just as much as we are. Their shared passions truly give me hope. They give me hope that this is not the end — in fact, it’s just the beginning. This is the beginning of us fighting the good fight [and hopefully not one another], educating, spreading optimism, working hard on all of these social issues, and creating a new piece of history — as it is truly our only choice. I am fortunate to be someone who has a job [that I love] which allows me to work with and for our future as we make change for the better.

If there is one thing I know, it’s that I continue to be so deeply humbled to work with teens. My teens give me hope. They somehow keep me grounded and remind me of my own [personal] values on a daily basis. They allow me to create a community filled with diversity, love, acceptance, empathy, passion, and optimism. They give me the most incredible hope…the hope that the community we have created amongst ourselves can grow and be reflected on both a national and global level. In a time when our country is so completely fractured, I believe we can count on the future generations to help bring us back together.

So…now what? I still don’t know. I’m not actually supposed to, am I? But I do know that I believe and I have hope. You have to. As Harvey Milk [my all-time favorite politician] always said, “you gotta give ’em hope.” If Milk could give us hope 38 years ago, we must find a way to do whatever it takes  today and hold on to every little glimmer of it. Give ’em hope—that’s what we need to continue do right now. 

*This was written 24 hours after the election.

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