the week i turned twenty-five, my life was rooted in the ordinary. even the existential questions concerning identity, the questions that are supposed to arise when one reaches that quarter-century-mark, didn’t quite faze me. i was mostly preoccupied with figuring out the nebulous rules of bluebooking for my upcoming legal research memo due the day after my birthday, with outlining for final exams, and with pre-empting any further coffee and tea stains on my leather-bound casebooks.
above all, i was assured in my moral values: of empathy, tolerance, respect, kindness, and inclusion. i was confident in this value system and in how i perceived and related to the world.
that was the first week of november. the air was becoming crisp, the leaves had taken on golden-orange and copper hues, and new york was settling into that season of wistful optimism meets nostalgia between autumn and winter.
on election day, november 8, i was barely able to focus in class because i was so excited about the election. i genuinely believed in the possibility of being able to call a woman the elected leader of my country — a woman who had dedicated herself to public service and fought tirelessly for this nation’s ideals. i had, however, become so desensitized to all of the negative and hateful remarks in the media portraying the campaigns over the past several weeks and months that much of my excitement and passion for the election had been diluted. these were personal and hurtful remarks by and against both sides, engulfed in a sea of negativity that i found discomforting. for me, the prospect of america moving on from the election so that “normal” life could continue largely overshadowed the prospect of a woman elected to preside over the world’s leading liberal democracy.
at around 4 pm, i met my friend in washington square park to head over to javits center, where hillary’s official election viewing party was held. as law students with pages of reading we had yet to finish, we (or at least i) had contemplated whether we should go to the convention center at all. he persuaded me rather convincingly that we had to see the historic glass ceiling for ourselves, and en route to this architectural and metaphorical feat, i couldn’t help but take in the sights of new york city that night and create an abstraction of my experience at a symbolic level. here i was, i thought, walking past the stone arch at washington square, to riding the subway, to passing the beautifully lit empire state building adjacent to the new yorker sign in the sky, where these symbols represented a progressive world of opportunity and change, and it was in this world, this amazingly beautiful and fast-paced and entrancing world that i was going to witness history.
the security surrounding the periphery of javits center was incredible. i had never seen a political spectacle of that scale, and the number of people, the sheer energy, the helicopters overhead and news trucks at ground, and the NYPD officers and sand trucks in the area astounded me. my excitement and passion for the election were returning and growing by the minute.
after returning home early, with the intention of getting some work done, i proceeded to check the new york times and five thirty eight forecasts while playing CNN’s coverage of the exit votes. that excitement soon turned into anxiety. as the meter showing trump’s chances on the new york times forecast continued to increase, my sense of apprehension rose. the rest of the night is history. somehow, in the middle of the night, the veil of the world i thought i knew had shattered.
i woke up the next day in another world. new york was grey and its clouds were distressed with tears that rained down onto eeringly quiet streets. in a city where the hustle and bustle is accentuated by the purposeful and aggressive rhythm of new yorkers, it almost seemed as if these tears were shed for a broken and divided america.
in hindsight, the question of how the world had appeared to have undergone an utterly cataclsymic metamorphosis was clear. this year had been a precipice for transformation, one so profound that a revolution was bound to take place. in my own life, i moved to a new city and started a new chapter, while in the rest of america and the world, small events had been taking place all along that solidified the birth of what felt like a deeply traumatic scar. i guess the changes for me and for the world came before we could even rationally perceive them, as we fervently tried to hold onto the vestiges of the past that still remained.
home, for me, is california. in the aftermath of the election, the california i called home had isolated itself in polarizing anti-trump rhetoric. people were furious, upset, and despondent, and some protested by taking over highways to forcibly demonstrate. their fundamental disagreement with the election outcome made evident the intensity and rawness of their fear for their livelihoods under the president-elect. i hurt for those people at home, many of whom i call friends. immigrants, racial minorities, LGBT, and women felt a fear so raw that it shook the very core of their beings. they denounced the bigotry and hatred exhibited by the president-elect and his campaign as a danger that threatened their existence and safety.
yet as much as i hurt for those back home, i soon realized the day after the election that the isolationist dialogue in california had blinded me from the discussion in the rest of the nation. it took something as simple and profound as talking to my classmates who shared heartfelt personal anecdotes of their family and friends from places they called home, where there were others who were celebrating the outcome because they sincerely believed that the president-elect they voted for through the elaborate democratic process of america’s political system could represent them and address their concerns. whether that entailed his promises on abortion or on jobs, there was something fundamental about the opportunity he represented to these relatives and friends of my classmates.
for a girl from the liberal heart of california, this was a powerful lesson. i saw my newfound friends in law school struggle with the dichotomy between their personal convictions and the political leanings of their loved ones. friends who came to law school out of the dream to reform civil rights and become government prosecutors suddenly found themselves in an alien world where it didn’t seem as feasible to pursue these passions. when we graduate in a trump administration, would we still choose to work in government in the pursuit of justice — whatever that means a few years from now? meanwhile, i saw how the calls for california’s secession and refusal to accept the outcome of the election only further secluded my home from the rest of the world. it was, and still is, a stark and disturbing dichotomy in which the battle lines have been drawn in ways where fellow human beings have become the heroes and villains by a mere measure of political belief.
new york city — and law school — have taught me that the world is a far bigger place than i had ever envisioned. voicing our opinions and standing up for what we believe in are rights we can and must practice affirmatively. turning twenty-five, in turn, has handed me a sobering yet empowering realization of the world i live in. with these sacred rights we have, we don’t turn to flee and cower from a confrontation. we fight. we use our rights as tools to work tirelessly for what we believe is the greater good. i know all this sounds incredibly sappy, but it is in times like this year, in which there have been such profound moments of breaking and falling apart, then reflection and healing, that we understand the depths of our passion, vulnerability, and finally — strength.
to another year of learning, growing, and loving.