Glass Shards and Bandages

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I learned at a young age that ‘hope’ would get me nowhere unless it was backed by hard work. Yet, I still had faith that I would wake up Wednesday morning surrounded by the glass shards, complete with the dried blood, sweat, and tears of the women and people of color before me. Instead, I feel like I’ve been thrown out the window instead of breaking through the glass ceiling.

In first grade, I told my teacher I was going to become the first female president. I went home crying, crushed after being informed that Hillary Rodham Clinton would beat me to it. I told my mom it wasn’t fair: that Hillary should just wait. Over a decade later, I realize how long Hillary has already been waiting, and working, and earning that title. She’s not perfect, but she’s also not a giant belligerent corn cob like her opponent. It took me a while to realize I wasn’t going to crush the patriarchy on my own, and neither can Hillary – it takes a team, it takes a nation. You have to keep climbing and then make sure to help others lean in once you get there. There sure as hell are plenty still left out and overlooked that need support and representation. But without the glass ceiling, there would be a lot less stopping us.

I am distraught. I’m seeking personal catharsis and urge anyone feeling vulnerable to support and care for themselves first, because this has been traumatic and can be especially triggering to continue seeing it. I feel a responsibility to speak up even more so now.

I’ve struggled to function as a student, friend, leader, mentor, and individual while recovering from my concussion. I’ve often joked about how something unsatisfactory “gave me another concussion.” But for election night, I genuinely cannot describe the experience as anything other than concussive. The utter shock that this could happen and my lack of control over the situation hit me like a ton of bricks. The complete disorientation. The surge of emotions. The inability to focus, to reason, to *just be*. The incoherence of my thoughts. The nonsensical sentences I’ve uttered as I try to make sense of this.

Professors reached out, offering extensions and providing a safe space to air concerns and also begin discussing how and why this happened to prevent history from repeating itself. My professors didn’t extend condolences – this was not sympathy: This was empathy. As a nation, we have failed. This is more than an election: This is a message. This is a movement. This is a travesty.

I feel betrayed that my home voted to support a racist, misogynistic, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamaphobic monster that gained acclaim through inept composure but enough money to buffer any failures. Trump has never been a viable candidate. Whereas Hillary built a career on public service, Trump’s antics and hate speech will never amount to good policy. But I am not surprised. I was born and raised in Michigan, and I know how entrenched the area is in the ideals Trump catered to. Strong women remain abhorrent to the ignorant. I understand that the circumstances I grew up in often left me feeling ignored and overlooked (because how else can you describe the continuation of such a crisis?). But rather than choosing an extremist who paid attention to me when I had felt forgotten, I took the time to listen to reason and rationality.

I am not a “sore loser” – I am a traumatized citizen. I feel responsible for not doing more, for not speaking out more, for not BEING more. For the next four years, I will be reminded that although I have fought tooth and nail to get where I am and achieve what I have, any time my opponent is a man my credibility will be questioned. I have long feared straight, old, wealthy, white men because they face no consequences; last night proved this. I will spend the rest of my life remembering my own victimization – the many victimizations that I often never spoke out about or sought help for because I had been conditioned to think it was out of my control; now it truly is. You ask why the female survivors of sexual assault and rape don’t report those who attacked them, or why they stay in relationships of domestic abuse, or why they’re unable to seek the important treatment and therapy they often need to recover, but you’ve already got your answer: women are powerless. Or at least that’s what the patriarchy would like us to think.

But while I was trying to compose myself on election night, a friend reminded me that many of us who feel traumatized in this moment were never meant to be where we are. So I urge you to continue striving, fighting, protesting, TRYING. Because ‘this’ – whatever ‘this’ may be – was not meant for us and we had to work harder than our privileged peers to get here. Once we did we weren’t able to let up for an instance because that would paint us as weak and discredit our worth.

I am exhausted and I am healing, but I won’t give up.

I CAN’T give up.

The next four years will be a reminder of the many traumas I have survived and still cope with, and the marginalization I continue to struggle with, but it’s also going to make me stronger. I feel bad for anyone who wants to try holding me back or slowing me down, because I am a not even close to done. Even though I hate referencing up more old white men right now, Newton was right: every action has a reaction, and the stronger the force applied pushes me down, the more I will push back.

Hunter Richards ([email protected]) will continue helping others to push through that ever-present glass ceiling.