News & Activism

12 Lessons I’ve Learned in the 12 Months Since Election Day

We never could have predicted this, yet here we are.

1. It’s OK to cry in public.
This applies not only to my immediate reaction to the results, but to every day since. Being sad, angry, frustrated, or just overwhelmed is extremely natural and a valid human reaction that is simply part of life. There is never shame in letting those emotions show; and if the people around you disagree, then surround yourself with new people. The day after the election, my friends and teachers huddled on the floor of a classroom together, clutching each other and sobbing as we watched Hillary’s concession speech. That day made me truly grateful for the community I have at school, and for the opportunity to be true to my emotional instincts in the moment.

2. Asking for help is similarly OK.
I, for one, would not have been able to get through the past year alone. Talking to friends, to family, to baristas, to Uber drivers, and to literally every politically like-minded individual I’ve encountered in the past year has been a healthy way to process my emotions. If the emotions felt too big, I learned to give myself a safety net of people to whom I could truly look to times of need.

3. Look at the other side.
Especially in Los Angeles, and especially at my all-girls’ high school, we are often told we’re living in a “liberal bubble,” something I failed to truly grasp before the election. It can feel really comfortable and easy, but that’s why it’s problematic. This year has taught me—no matter how painful and infuriating—to seek out other news sources and to look at the people who support Trump and analyze what they have to say. This also applies to optimism; a spirit I’ve struggled to keep alive as of late. Aside from seeking out news that challenges my worldview, there have been times I have sought out positive news or anything to remind me that there is good in the world.

4. Be angry.
As a young person, especially as a young woman, anger is treated like an invalid emotion when it’s coming out of my mouth. Frankly, fuck that. I can take up space with any emotion I please. I don’t owe anyone an apology for that.

5. Direct your anger at the right people/things.
AKA, don’t be a dick and blame it on politics. Don’t take it out on the people around you; call your senator. This also applies to not getting in internet fights with people. Save your energy for WAY better causes.

6. Listen to those more affected by this than you.
As a cis white woman living in one of the most privileged places in the country, it’s rarely about me. The best way I can emphasize the voices of the voiceless is to take a step back and let others speak.
election day7. Make art. Any art.
For a while, I got bogged down by the question of the role of the artist in this trying time in society. Eventually, I realized that as an artist, the very act of creation is enough. Art is a uniting force for not only healing, but progress. Art for art’s sake is just as valuable as social commentary.

8. Stay informed.
“Fake news” is a term we’ve all heard and probably used. Originally coined as an attack on liberal pundits criticizing or fact-checking Trump, this has been re-appropriated to mean news coming from non-reputable sources. Fact check the alternative facts. Do your research. 99% of the news stories aren’t news—get good at making this distinction.

9. Take time for yourself.
I’ve found myself needing to spend more and more time on self-care this year. From meditation to media cleanses, no “treat yourself” moment is too small. If you find yourself feeling really stuck, eat a warm cookie or take a hot bath and don’t beat yourself up about it.

10. Don’t let it become complacency, though.
There’s a big difference between taking a much-needed break every so often and sitting back to let the world plow you over. Take the time you need, but when you’re back, really be back. There needs to be a healthy balance of action and rest.

11. Do something!
Call senators, attend marches, make signs, inform your family and friends, write to publications, and hold demonstrations. Do not be silent! No action is too small. Donate to Planned Parenthood, to hurricane relief, to your local women’s shelter… the possibilities to do good are endless.

12. Be kind always.
Naive as it sounds, so many things in our world can be solved with kindness. Be kind to strangers and the people in your life who aren’t your nearest and dearest (though obviously be kind to them, too). I’m not talking random acts of kindness—that’s too easy and too temporary. What I mean is to take the extra time to appreciate the people who are unseen yet constant in your life: the janitorial staff at your school or workplace, the employees at your favorite coffee shop, the people you see occasionally in the library or at social functions. Smiling at strangers feels way easier than smiling at someone you only-kind-of-know. Not to say you can’t do both, but challenge yourself not to take the easy way out.

Cover image via DailyBeast

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Kate is a 16-year-old student at the Marlborough School in Los Angeles,...