My high school history teacher always used to talk about the ‘defining moment’ – an event in your life that occurs so abruptly and is so mind-altering that you’ll remember it for as long as you live. Every year that date will appear on your calendar, and when you see it, every emotion you felt at that time will come rushing back. You’ll visualize every detail in your head like it’s playing on the tv screen in front of you. She often spoke of her mother’s defining moment, the day JFK was assassinated, and her own, the day two planes crashed into the World Trade Center. I would sit at my desk and wonder, with a mix of fear and excitement, when my defining moment would come, and what it would entail.
I don’t know if what played out on Saturday, November 7th, 2020 was THE defining moment of my life, but it certainly will be one of them. The buzz of my cell phone aroused me from sleep, and what stared back at my squinting eyes was incomprehensible and monumental all at once. A text from a friend, three simple words. “God Bless America”.
What ensued in the following hours can only be described as a pure, unabated display of hope. My social media feeds were inundated with images of celebration and camaraderie. Rainbow flags waving in the air, car horns echoing through the city streets. The energy was contagious, but honestly, I found myself afraid to feel hopeful. Or maybe, uncomfortable with the feeling. I didn’t quite trust it yet. There was an unmistakable sense of lightness emulating out of these posts, and I can’t deny that the initial news made me feel like I could breathe for the first time in four years. Perhaps my hesitation was due to the fact that any celebratory act of mine was confined to a 600-square-foot apartment. The circumstances of my 14-day quarantine served as a stark reminder that we were not yet out of the storm. I could feel hope and optimism knocking at the door, but I wasn’t completely ready to let it in.
The ups and downs of the past year have been unprecedented. The actions taken by this administration, or the inaction in some cases, are unprecedented. The president’s refusal to play within ethical boundaries is unprecedented. The dissent of the political opposition is unprecedented. The absolute disregard for the democratic system is unprecedented; and all of it is incredibly unsettling, to say the least.
I eagerly await January 20th, 2021. It is on this day that I will finally let my barriers fall, letting in the hope and optimism and light. On this day, I believe the real work can finally begin – enacting gun laws, eradicating racist institutions, chipping away at stereotypes, freeing the children from their cages, dismantling the industries that contribute to climate change, combating the virus that has plagued our world. I have yearned for this day since the last ceremony of its kind, but it hasn’t felt real until now. Maybe January 20th, 2021 will be the true defining moment, but I know that the events of November 7th, 2020 too will live forever in my memory.
So, a number of years from now, when November 7th rolls around, I imagine that the car horns, the president’s tweets, the rainbow flags, the apprehension, the fear, the flickering of optimism, will all come back to me, fresh as a new wound. I only hope that when these memories flood my thoughts, I am remembering the past from a world that is powered by renewable energy, a world where love is love, a world where true equality exists not just as a dream, but as reality.