“Good job, America.”
Upon waking up on Wednesday morning, I read this text message. On the previous night, I had turned off CNN and fallen into bed well before the results of the election had been decided. Reading the text message over and over, I weakly hoped that I had simply misinterpreted the tone. I opened Twitter to confirm my fears, then deleted the Twitter app. Slowly, I unfolded my body. I got out of bed. I brushed my teeth. I put on a black fleece and black jeans, then took a minute to post my own “Good job, America” on Facebook. I deleted that app, too. Then, I put on my black sneakers and wore my black hair out into the cold of the morning. When I got to the top of Science Hill, I pulled out my midterm study guides, kept my head down and tried to forget.
But the day went on. It was impossible to forget that hours ago, the hopes of my peers had been splintered. I fell into hug after hug in the halls and on the streets, exchanging wordless condolences. My classmates sat still and quiet in organic chemistry lecture, sparser than usual. Later, I studied for my midterm again in KBT Cafe, surrounded by slumped shoulders and people making impassioned phone calls to family members about the results. I put my headphones on and turned up the volume, as if that could make it all go away. After the exam, I rushed to organic chemistry lab, thankful for every endless academic task that could possibly keep my mind away from reality.
Walking back down Science Hill that afternoon, I was hit with the realization that I wanted nothing more than to disengage — physically, emotionally, entirely — from the very country that I had been born into. I didn’t want to see the news reels; I didn’t want to hear the speeches; I didn’t want anything more to do with America, with this nation of people so plagued by ignorance and hatred that they were willing to elect a candidate who belittled women and minorities as easily as he combed his mop of hair in the mornings. Still, I had no tears. I hadn’t cried the night before, when Florida, Ohio and my home state of Pennsylvania had stained the screen bright red and I had gone to bed pretending that everything would still be alright in the morning. I wouldn’t cry now, not over a past due realization that all of my worst fears about my country were true.
Then I checked Facebook from my laptop, and the tears came — not out of devastation, but out of relief. On my feed in blue and red, I saw the projected election map based on only ballots from voters aged 18–25. On it, a mere 23 electoral votes — compared to the 279 he had actually received the day before — were allotted to Donald Trump. With those numbers, the meaning of my struggles, along with those of my peers, faded back into color. Our discussions about our country’s future, our eagerness to stand in line for hours to vote, our drive to achieve so that in years to come we might find our place to contribute to this country — all of it meant something for America’s future.
In 40 years, when I read the next generation of American history books, I want to see that millennials’ voting map at the top of the page about the 2016 election. I want my children and all the other children to study those results, and to know that my peers and I did not passively or willingly go into this presidency. In this map lies America’s identity, as well as my own — as a woman, a minority, a millennial, an American citizen — and the proof that our identities can and will overcome the aftermath of this disappointing blow.
Each day this country shifts with the molding of its children, and today we millennials stand at the center. Despite the hatred and prejudice that runs deep in this country, we will continue to hold our heads above the flood — not only to breathe, but also to speak out, as we always have. America did not die this week, because despite our disappointment, we have not given up. It is our job to lead the future with empathy and integrity, to rise up to the challenge where past generations have failed.
So, good job, America — at least you raised us right.