What I Did the Day After the Election
I woke up to a text message saying that - effectively - Trump had won. He isn't who I voted for, so I was a bit disappointed and, of course, surprised (shocked, really). I went to bed thinking this thing was headed to a multi-state recount but then, in the middle of the night, I woke up and checked some news sites on my phone and sure enough, saw the truth. I laid awake for another 90 minutes or so thinking what this meant for me, my daughter, my business, and the rest of the country. I wondered how it could have happened, how experts were so wrong, and how so many people could vote for him. I wondered what I'd say to my daughter.
My daughter, awake and eating her breakfast on the couch as her morning ritual, was getting ready to start the day. I knew I needed to tell her the outcome of the election before she went to school, so I did.
"Hey," I eased in gently. "Yesterday, a lot of people voted for Donald Trump and he actually won the election."
"Is he going to be the President?" she asked.
"Yeah. I'm afraid so."
She teared up. She wanted Clinton to win and over the last few months would ask people who they were voting for. At the mock election at the local library, she cast a vote for Clinton and on more than one occasion I heard her tell someone, "Donald Trump says mean things about girls," which, as we know, is true.
A little piece of her world came crashing down. I assured her that no matter who the President is, that I love her. That her mom loves her. That lots of people love her. And that today at school, she could find lots of adults that care about her whom she could speak with about how she felt.
Eventually we started watching Kids Baking Challenge and then left for school.
I call my best friend James to check in quickly. He's at the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown with his girlfriend and her family. It's not a long call as such and we don't wade too deeply into our post-election feelings. It's nice to hear his voice on the other end of the line, even if both of us - usually very optimistic people - are finding it hard to be that right now.
As I'm walking to a coffee meeting, I call my girlfriend to chat briefly, mainly about how we're each feeling about the results. We're both stunned and a bit confused.
I meet my friend Andrea for a long-scheduled coffee and catch up. We picked this date weeks earlier, not even thinking about what the outcome of the election would be. We saw each other and hugged. It felt good to have someone to sympathize with and debrief some of this whole thing in person. The discussion quickly moved on to catching up on work and family.
Another coffee meeting, this time with a student from Belmont who needs to interview me for a paper he's writing about entrepreneurship. It feels good to focus on and talk about something else for a while.
I call Rob, my business partner and close friend. He jokingly answers the phone, "Rob speaking. Here to make America great again." He, an ardent Clinton supporter and donor, is nearly speechless. He tells me that his daughter, a kindergartner, is also taking the result hard. To children who got into this election mirroring their parents, losing on a national scale like this is hard.
After all, for many of my peers, we've backed a winner the last two times. As such, it felt like the US was heading in a certain direction and all the Trump rhetoric was a u-turn from that. And here was a qualified and tested candidate in Clinton. Certainly this would be easy, right?
I pick up lunch at Chipotle. The line is long. It just looks like any other Wednesday in America.
I eat lunch with my girlfriend and we watch CNN to see what people are saying. Lots of experts who were wrong thinking somehow now they're right about why all this happened. We can't take too much of it, so we switch it to HGTV. I normally hate watching The Property Brothers but I find them more palatable than the alternative at that moment.
During the commercial, my girlfriend and I talk about echo chambers and how all of us live in one. Everyone in our respective social media feeds was voting like us. Then again, most of our feeds look like us, act like us, shop like us, and eat like us. We all seem to congregate with people like us, I think, no matter who we backed.
I go back to work. Emails and orders keep coming in. Gotta keep up. I check Facebook (one of my echo chambers) intermittently. I see friends and family trying to process what can only be described as grief. I want to hold out hope. It's difficult, though. It's easy to talk about hope when your candidate wins, but hard to hold onto it when she doesn't. Then again, hope isn't forged in Heaven. Its true test is how formidable it can become when facing the fires of Hell. Easy hope isn't hope at all, I think.
I call my friend Jodi. It's been a few months since we've spoken. She's experienced more loss than anyone I know this year and this just heaps it on. Her husband passed away unexpectedly in February. "I just wish I had someone to hold," is the first thing she tells me. We move on and begin to catch up, talking about work and relationships and a book idea. Things start to sort of feel a bit normal.
I see on Instagram (another echo chamber) that a local business is offering its space as a place where people can come and process their feelings. "Would they be offering that if the election results were different?" I wondered to myself. I can't imagine so. Not everywhere is an equal opportunity safe space.
My college roommate calls. We don't talk often as he lives in Florida, has two young kids, and is working hard in his career. He opens with, "So you proud of my home state?" We chat briefly, again, flabbergasted. There's no easy conclusion or explanation, but it's good to connect with him again, even if it is in the midst of an inexplicable haze. When things are blurry is when we find it easiest to reach for another hand.
I meet my daughter and her mother for an art reception. One of her drawings was chosen to be put on display in the front hallway of her school and they're honoring her and other students with a reception (cookies and punch). When life gives you lemon, make art.
I start dinner for me and my daughter. We eat our noodles and work on a puzzle. It feels like home. Here, inside, tucked away from a world we thought we understood (good always wins, right?) it feels like we can make it another day. That's what home should be for all of us - a place to go to celebrate and grieve, to grow and to heal.
But so many fellow Americans don't feel like this country is a place where they can do that anymore. How can I help make it that way again? Or even for the first time?
It's time for bed for my daughter. We each take turns reading a book to each other and I say goodnight, tell her I love her, and kiss her goodnight. Some things never change. Nor should they.
I text with a good friend, a local pastor. He begins by saying that he's sad. I tell him that I am, too. He's most regretful that so many evangelicals voted as they did, for Trump. He's even to the point that he no longer wants to identify as one, if that's what such an identification means. I don't blame him and tell him that's a great first step. He is saddened that so many people chose a known sexist racist for such a high office, but also admits that when he's at his worst, he has those tendencies, too. I admire his humility and honesty, but before I can tell him that he says he'll repent. I remind him that such an act is fine, but it can't end there.
For far too long, Christians have thought that repentance and prayer is an act. It's not. It's a cowardly excuse not to act. Pray all you want, but then you better get to marching. If prayerful hands don't turn into clenched fists, then I think you're doing it wrong. Your praying knee better be attached to a marching leg. Solemn voices in private need to turn into truth telling and prophecy in public. I have a feeling that God's answer to every prayer is, "And?!" as God pleads us to get off our asses and out into the streets.
I end tonight like I do most nights, by talking to my girlfriend, unpacking the day and dreaming about what's next. Such an anchor matters in both peaceful waters and stormy ones.
I spent the day after the election how I should spend most days - talking to people I love, thinking deeply on issues of great importance, working hard on what I'm building, making sure my daughter knows she's loved, and staying hopeful about tomorrow.
All of us need these three things, I think, to be our truest and best selves:
- A place to call home
- A person to love
- A cause to fight for
An upset election can remind us of that. But so can a sunrise. A paycheck. A delicious meal. An injustice. A poem.
Whatever your harbinger, I hope you find what you're looking for. I hope you've got a place, a person, and a reason. They'll keep you pressing forward even when you feel like you can't move at all.