I Have Grown and Am Growing

I so clearly remember waking up on the morning of November 9, 2016. I was heartbroken. My dad had off work that day and he took me to Dunkin’ before he dropped my 15-year-old self off at school in my black dress to symbolize my mourning. Tragically he did not let me stay home, so I went into a building full of people who were thrilled about the outcome of the election, or at least came from a family that was. 

I remember chants of “build the wall.” I remember terrible comments directed towards my peers. Mostly, I remember being quiet. I mean, I wasn’t always quiet. My peers absolutely knew where I stood politically and I talked about it in abstract terms, even when people said they would vote for Trump if they could.

What I remember most from that day is a girl leaving my second period class in tears. She was Latina and someone told her Trump would send her back to her country, even though she was a citizen, and I said nothing. I was quiet when it mattered. 

I am thinking about this four years later, and I am devastated by my silence then, but I am also so proud of the woman I have become over the past four years. 

Now, I would never sit by when someone said things like that, and I have surrounded myself with people who would never think of saying those things. Over the past four years, I helped plan a walkout at my high school after the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, I have registered dozens of people to vote, I have canvassed and phone banked, I have protested, and I have had so many difficult conversations with those I love and those who I know can do and be better. I am by no means saying I am a perfect ally. I have so much room to grow, but I am so proud that I am growing. 

I am proud of the fact that I am bold but also learning. After the Black Lives Matter protests this summer, my role as a lifelong student genuinely clicked and I realized I can never stop listening to the voices of marginalized people, even when I think I know how to advocate for them. The social and political climates in our country are forever shifting, and while there are concrete issues that are clearly in need of tackling, every day brings a new challenge about which I am excited to learn more. 

Four years ago, I thought I knew it all. I thought life was doomed because Trump won, and things have undoubtedly been bad, but I didn’t see the ways in which I could become better over the coming four years. I may not have been able to change the people whose opinions were based in hatred and prejudice, but four years ago I didn’t know I was able to tell people what their vote meant to me and have constructive conversations. I don’t know that I caused anyone to change the person for whom they cast their ballot, but I can say, without a shred of doubt, that I let them know what it meant. 

Over the past four years, I have become a better person. I speak out more, but I listen more. I am loud when witnessing injustice, but quiet when I can learn to be a better ally and advocate. But the thing I am most proud of is the confidence I have gained in my ability as a political participant and the understanding I now have of the people for whom I know I can and will make a difference as I continue to grow. 

Right now, I don’t know what will happen over the next four years, but I do know that I am ready to push back against injustice at any given moment, and I am so proud of the woman I have become over the last four years.