Going to Work

I wrote a post last month called Pick One, in which I talked about how hard I felt it was to prioritize the following three goals:

  1. Paying off my student loans and growing my net worth
  2. Living a full and fun life
  3. Contributing to my community

Last month feels like a really, really long time ago.

It’s been a little over a week since the election. (Note to self: never ever watch an election alone again.) Like many of us, I’ve been thinking a lot since last Wednesday about what happened and why. I/we have a lot of questions, such as Why did people choose to vote the way they did? and Why did some people not even bother to vote at all? and What could have been done differently? and Why do we still have an electoral college?

These are all vitally important questions, but they’re not what I’m focusing on today.

Instead, I want to write a little about how my emotional experience has changed over the past week. I don’t keep a diary, but as far as I can reconstruct it, here is a basic recap of how I’ve personally been feeling:

Day 1 (Wednesday): Very very sad. Trying not to cry on the train. Very angry.

Day 2 (Thursday): Very very sad. Trying not to cry on the train. Very angry.

Day 3 (Friday): Sad. Angry.

Day 4 (Saturday): Sad. Angry.

Day 5 (Sunday): Somewhat sad. Somewhat angry.

Day 6 (Monday): Mildly sad (and also freaking out about Stephen Bannon).

Day 7 (Tuesday): Mildly sad (and still kind of freaking out about Stephen Bannon).

Day 8 (Wednesday): Mildly sad. Worried. But mostly fine.

There’s a pretty clear trajectory here. Emotions that were strong on Day One have slowly become milder and milder over the course of the week (with the exception of the Stephen Bannon thing, which I found out about on Monday). And judging from what I’ve seen posted on social media, I’d say that a lot of other people who were extremely upset last Wednesday have been experiencing a similar decrease in emotional intensity. We’ve worked through a lot of our sadness and anger and have started to go back to our regular lives. And to some extent this is normal, right? That’s what people do—they move on after an upsetting event. They “heal”.

Okay. But the thing is, this event isn’t going away.

For the next four years, the United States is going to have a president who (just to name a few) has expressed racist sentiments, who has bragged about sexually assaulting women, who incited fear of immigrants at his rallies, who has said he would require all Muslims to register with the government, who is championed by the KKK and the American Nazi Party, who has claimed that climate change is a hoax, and who is currently assembling a cabinet that may include, among others, an alt-right figurehead and a climate-change denier.

Equally upsetting, if not more so, is the fact that many adults and children in this country are afraid for their personal safety and the safety of their family members. Over 400 incidents of harassment and intimidation have been reported throughout the U.S. since the election. Swastikas have appeared on buildings. Elementary school children have been threatened and intimidated by peers. College students have been harassed on campuses. Tragically, harassment and intimidation of minorities is nothing new, but many of the incidents this past week appear to have been perpetrated by individuals who feel emboldened by the election results to act on their hate.

There’s a grave disconnect here: my own emotions are telling me that everything is fine, but clearly everything is not fine.

I think it’s important for me to recognize that the reason I’m feeling like everything is fine is because for me personally, everything actually is fine. But that’s because as a white, straight, gender-conforming American-born person, I am not at much risk of being harassed or intimidated. And as a result of this privilege, I have the option of pretty much ignoring this whole situation.

But I can’t let myself do that. For the sake of my Black, Asian, Latino, Muslim, Jewish, immigrant, and LGBTQ friends, colleagues, clients, acquaintances, neighbors, and fellow community members, I can’t ignore what’s happening right now or what could potentially happen over the next four years. I must not normalize this as simply a less-than-ideal situation that I have to get through. I have to work harder than that.

So to return to the Pick One question, which again involves prioritizing the following three intentions…

  1. Paying off my student loans and growing my net worth
  2. Living a full and fun life
  3. Contributing to my community

…I strongly feel I need to seriously ramp up #3, contributing to my community. In particular, on doing whatever I can to help make my community a place where people can feel safe. And I strongly feel I need to find ways to actively do this instead of just talking about it.

I’m still figuring out what that means–and if you have any suggestions, please do let me know. So far, I think it means giving money to organizations that fight inequality and injustice and climate change. I think it means paying close attention to what’s going on in my government and calling my representatives when I have something to say. It definitely means standing up for people in my community who don’t feel safe. It definitely means standing up publicly against racism and hate and intolerance. It means finding ways to donate my time to help others. And it means not allowing myself to fall into thinking that everything is okay simply because it feels pretty much okay to me.

In the spirit of making a change, I’ve decided that I’m not going to keep writing about my usual topic of paying off my student loans. I mean no disrespect to others who will continue to write about their finances, but that’s just not where I’m at right now.

I admit that I haven’t yet figured out what I will be writing about, or even if there will be a unified theme. But I was inspired this week by reading what Toni Morrison wrote about the role of the artist/writer in difficult circumstances (thanks to Brain Pickings for distributing this quotation over the weekend):

This is precisely the time when artists go to work. There is no time for despair, no place for self-pity, no need for silence, no room for fear. We speak, we write, we do language. That is how civilizations heal.

I know the world is bruised and bleeding, and though it is important not to ignore its pain, it is also critical to refuse to succumb to its malevolence. Like failure, chaos contains information that can lead to knowledge — even wisdom. Like art.

–Toni Morrison, “No Place for Self-Pity, No Room for Fear”

I don’t know the topic of my next post, or when I will publish it. But when I do figure that out, you’ll be the first to know.

And until then, take care of yourself—and of others.

11 Comments on “Going to Work

  1. I just got a job with the federal government in the environmental science field. I worked as a janitor in a lab animal facility for two years after graduating before finally getting this job. Now I’m worried if I’ll even have my job in a few months! Right after the election one of my coworkers posted a sign on their door – a quote from J.K. Rowling: “We must try not to sink beneath our anguish, but battle on.”

    1. I love the J.K. Rowling quote. Thanks for sharing!
      I hope you have a better sense of the future of your job soon. The incoming administration clearly does not care about the environment, but they (hopefully) can’t get rid of all government research. I hope you can continue your work in that important field.

  2. My trajectory and thoughts have followed yours nearly exactly. And I am with you. Solidarity, sister. I’m doing my thing because that’s what I know how to do… but, in reality, I’ve had very similar thoughts on how I just don’t care about money anymore.

  3. I have had an experience similar to yours thus far. Good for you for being willing to speak against what you believe is wrong. Now the work begins.

  4. Sending you lots of love <3 Thank you for being a great person and using your platform to speak out. I can't wait to see what you create from this. I would love to do some sort of activism group with fellow PF bloggers who feel similarly about the election results? Maybe some sort of fundraising/donation thing along with a community element? I'm not exactly sure what it would look like, but I know that there are quite a few PF bloggers who have publicly stated that they aren't okay with the results, etc. Feel free to email me if you want to talk about it more or brainstorm. I would love to help with anything that you're thinking about/planning tbh <3

  5. Across the world in the UK, I’m very much of this mindset too. Now, some things just don’t seem so important. Number 3 – Contributing to our community – is the only meaningful choice. Here we go… Good luck!

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