Today marks the second day since the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election devastated our world. Even writing out the words, reading them in my head one more time: “Donald Trump is our next president”, rings a dull and over-beaten sensation in my skull.
It sucks. It sucks more than anything that has shaken our nation in the past decade. We have to fight, take action, exert our intelligence, uphold our rights, and voice our presence. Donald Trump is not our president. Our America is not his.
We know all of this, we’ve heard all of it, we’ve felt all of it, in our waking and in our sleep.
An inconvenient reality-check resonated among the millions of us after Trump and Trump supporters not only won the election, but began tearing down our society immediately after. Racism, sexism, bigotry, and hate are as evident as they were several decades back. This is a stark reality. But at least we see it, and there is nothing to do but keep our eyes open. We stand ready to give the fight our own hands — no gloves, full spirit.
In partaking in life as usual these past two days — school, work, friends, family — I found myself questioning my joy, the daily pleasures of people and places that I usually so readily share, promote, and capitalize upon. Joy in Trump’s America? It felt odd to smile or laugh amidst a time that frightens, scares, and intimidates the millions.
It felt strange to be happy in moments where I remained aware that these next 4 years would include some of the hardest battles in American history.
I wondered: How are we to remain happy? How am I to pursue the passions I intended on pursuing, when there is so much to be done, when the human right to pursue life without restriction is now jeopardized for all those non-white, unprivileged, and unwilling to look the other way?
How does we indulge in the blissful parts of life — smiling, laughing, and loving without worry — when we all need to worry more now than ever before?
How do we fight the fight, and never stop, meanwhile living lives of gratitude, optimism, and hopeful dreams?
I realized it is not in the questioning of how by which we find our answers, but through the active duty of living the opportunities in front of us, and fighting for opportunities we cannot see.
Was Martin Luther King Jr. madly depressed? Did Mother Teresa never smile?
Social change and human justice does not require our minds to be broken, sullen, or washed over.
In fact, it requires the opposite. It requires vibrant energy and fervent activism, a mind that shines so bright that others cannot help but bear to see it. Mindful passion for what is right and what is wrong that can fuel the difficult task of approaching the world with precision, intellect, and a leveled temper.
It is our duty to not only think about the things that are going to happen, the problems that we currently face, and the solutions that need to be devised, but also how we may best be there for our society, and for our roles in human rights.
Laying in bed all day, ignoring work, school, or personal hygiene — buckling a metaphorical seatbelt over your waist in a car headed for unpleasant thoughts and general pessimism — is not what our society needs. Nor how we best serve the roles we must now assume.
It sucks, it does. But life as we know it is not over.
We have each other. We have the ocean. We have jokes. We have sunsets. We have things to laugh about, dreams to pursue, experiences to keep us happy, productive, and in high spirits.
It is our right to participate in the wonderful parts of life as much as it is our duty to fight against the damaged parts.
If you think about it, the wonderful parts are exactly what we are fighting for.
So during these next four years, do not forget to smile. Do not forget to run, hike, travel, write, read, film, or participate in any of the things that give you joy. Happier people have more energy, more open minds, and more cognitive resources to dedicate to the causes that need them most. In taking care of yourself, you are promoting a better you to fight on the front lines.
Just remember that every joy we harness is a privilege — privelages some do not have, privileges some must fight to hold onto. Remember that every action you carry out influences others in undetectable ways, the inclusion of a stranger or conversation with a friend. Recognize that in these actions we harness opportunities for immeasurable influence on the positive directions of our world, as long as we are aware and responsible of how our intentions and decisions cascade onto others.
Stick to your dreams and pursue them. Continue teaching, learning how to code, investigating the neurobiological implications of the drug with a funny name. These things bind us together, promote intellectual thinking, and encourage alternative perspective-taking. Pursue your dreams even stronger than before, in efforts of making a positive difference for our country, and an undying contribution to the rights that are now at stake.
Make new dreams for our country, for the ones who feel Trump’s hate more deeply than anyone else, for the environment that hosts no hoax. Get directly involved on the front-lines as much as you can. The people at them are enthusiastic, driven, intelligent, and open-minded. Find ways to fight with your spirit and conribute your voice by collaborating with the best part of activism: the people involved.
Lastly, take your joy and magnify it. Smile as widely as you can, laugh louder than you ever have before. Appreciate your happiness and let it fuel the ways in which you positively affect our world, our country, and the results of these next 4 years.
In staying happy amidst the 4 year fight, we fight stronger than ever before.