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Regaining Perspective Post-Election

Ever since the election, the results have felt like the single most important thing in the world. Half the country voted the way I did, half did not, and as in so many of the elections I remember, the popular vote differed from that of the electoral college. I’ve heard a thousand should haves, would haves, could haves, and even more ideas about things that must be done (or not done). In the midst of this turmoil, homework and grades seem utterly trivial. America is polarized, the world is ending, and who cares about a few missed assignments anyway?

Unfortunately, I don’t have a magic cure for this election hangover. I can’t seem to shake my preoccupation with the election with reminding myself that future me will care about the effect of missed assignments on my GPA. Nor does thinking about my professors, putting in the work to help me and my classmates succeed despite their own reactions, change things. The same goes for remembering where the tuition money that allows me to be here, where my job is to go to class, doing my homework, and studying, comes from. Even looking around and seeing how many fellow Oxford students are affected doesn’t offer substantive comfort. There is no quick or easy fix, no matter how much I wish for one.

In an ideal world, I could ignore the election results until the end of the semester, if not, throughout these two months before the inauguration. I don’t think anyone believes this is an ideal world, but it isn’t one of magic solutions, either. It may be trite, but the big issues are big. Big problems require big solutions, built from the efforts of a collective whole, not just one individual. To unite a polarized America, we will need patience, a multitude of building blocks, and dedication to do the work necessary for change. 

Reactions to the election aren’t going to disappear within a week, and I have a feeling that the political arena is going to play a larger role in our lives than ever before. Still, life goes on. While there is no quick fix, that fact can be reassuring instead of paralyzing. You don’t have to heal the world tomorrow. Should the opportunity arise to create understanding from conflict, distrust, and prejudice, seize it. If it doesn’t, maybe that paper you’ve been putting off can get your full attention. After all, our liberal arts education is designed to make us better thinkers and communicators in any field. The time you spend focused on school is not wasted — it’s just a different kind of preparation.

This perspective won’t automatically de-trivialize those things which feel less important than the election results, but it’s a starting place. Remember that it’s okay to be concerned about things beyond the ramifications of November 8, 2016, and doing so doesn’t lessen how much you care about America’s future. 

As Rogelio De La Vega said in this week’s episode of CW’s Jane The Virgin (and flight attendants everywhere have been telling us since commercial flying was a thing), “Put on your own oxygen mask before assisting others.” Sometimes you have to take care of yourself before you can make a difference in the lives of others. Whether that means getting extra sleep, spending more time distracting yourself with friends, or pumping those movie soundtracks and refocusing on school, know that the stronger you are, the better you can seize opportunities to unite America and make a change.

Mary Elisabeth is a junior at Emory University, majoring in English and Creative Writing. She is currently studying abroad in England.
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