I have been living in a bubble since November 9th. I saw the results of the election, but since I did not believe Americans would elect a reality TV star to be president, I couldn’t process my new reality.
This was not the ‘I can’t believe he forgot to put the toilet seat down again’ kind of disbelief. This was a deep disbelief — the kind that left me questioning the collective value of this country.
I realized about halfway through the first week of president-elect Trump that I was not going to be able to follow the news from the new administration and keep my sanity at the same time. With each new cabinet announcement, I felt like I was in an A&E reality show about a set of old Russian dolls taking over the White House (p.s. shout out to Russia!).
We elected ourselves an entertainer-in-chief, but I was not entertained. I could feel my blood pressure rise every time I logged onto the computer and saw the news of the day. I knew it had to stop. I started with a Facebook hiatus because social media is THE WORST presence when trying to self-regulate. Eventually I found myself tuning out almost completely from the news of the world, which was weird because for the most part, I make a living paying attention to and caring about the news.
What I found when I tuned back in, even when I listened to ‘neutral’ public radio, was a shrill hysteria that I’m sure I had unknowingly absorbed before my media fast. I could see clearly now the toll the American news cycle was taking on my psyche. We are days away from President Trump, and I am even more convinced that I cannot put myself back on a steady diet of sensationalized media and hyperbolic news. I won’t live under a rock, but I won’t live in fear of what I see on screens, either.
I went home to Texas for the holidays, where most of my democratic family and friends were (understandably) still upset about the impending presidency. Their agitation caught me off guard because I had been so insulated by my bubble. My people, people used to Texas’ specific brand of Red Rule, could not believe there were enough Americans seeing red to elect Donald Trump.
People are upset, and they don’t know what to do. Since sometimes I write about these things and have openly strong feelings about the American political system, a lot of my friends reached out to ask me what I think we should do in the midst of the new administration. To be completely honest, at first I was annoyed by this question. I’m a freelance writer with little money to my name, no businesses to show for myself, no rental properties, no published books or screenplays… I’m just a 27-year-old with strong opinions and an annoyingly strong orientation toward justice.
How should I know what to do when millions of Americans decide the right thing to do is elect an egomaniacal attention-hog as president of the United States? I voted for Barack Obama the first two times I was allowed to vote, and now a man who brands his name in huge tacky gold letters all over the world will be president. How am I supposed to know what to do with that?
But then, I took the media hiatus. I got more “into my body,” as the healers say. I put healthy fuel in my body, I remembered to feel my feet on the ground, and I exercised enough to feel good. Then, instead of distracting myself so heavily with the news of the day, I focused on my own reality. I am currently in the middle of a huge period of transition in my life, and sometimes focusing on problems I really can’t solve allows me a distraction from focusing on the problems I can. That realization is what allowed me to understand what I, and anyone else, can do in this new era.
We all have real-life responsibilities, and we all have communities we are a part of. When it comes to young people (under 35), a lot of us put off adulthood without considering that in doing so, we relinquish power to people many of us fundamentally disagree with. Since we continue to give away our power, they continue to set the laws and mandate the rules.
It takes practice to lead, but practice does not mean we all have to run for mayor next November (although for many of you, that is exactly what you should do!). For one of my friends, it means joining the PTA at her daughter’s private school AND seeking a leadership position even though she dreads dealing with the cliquish tendencies of parent groups. For me at this moment, it means constantly nagging my mother to run for the school board in the district she taught in for 17 years, or to run for her city council. For me in the future, it means finding a community to be an active part of so I can run for local office in my 30s.
The only thing any of us have power over is ourselves, and how we carry ourselves can change the world around us. If we are so wrapped up in national and international news that we neglect our own community, those negative vibrations will be allowed to thrive in our own backyards. It is time for those of us who are angry or afraid to channel that energy into becoming active evangelists of hope, positivity, and love.
That means displaying those traits aggressively and with purpose. That means not making any more excuses when we are presented with opportunities to lead – whether it’s in church, our kids’ PTA, or a local volunteer organization. We cannot shy away from positions of leadership when they are presented to us because we don’t have time, or because we are waiting for someone else ‘more qualified’ to take the reins. That is how we will stay in a stagnate, regressive mess.
If the year 2016 taught me anything, it is that our time has come. No amount of online petitions or Facebook posts will stand in for the work that needs to be done by all of us, everywhere. Right now we are in a fight for the heart of this country, and in 2017, I choose to believe that there are more of us on the side of peace and love than on the side of fear and hate. Find a good neighbor, elevate them and their work. Create strong networks of communities and encourage positive leaders to seek office in your county, city, and state. We can’t just say we want political change, we have to find the people, or be the people, we want to lead.