When I brought my son into the world the first of November, I had no idea that my maternity leave would be bookended by the shock of the election and the sobering reality of an inauguration of Donald Trump as the president of the United States.
As I sat at home, nursing my baby in those early weeks, I found myself conflicted between the desire to be well-informed about what was happening in the world and the need to self-protect so as not to spoil these precious weeks with my infant child. Like a train wreck, it was impossible to look away. Believe me, I tried. I was aware of the impact that this election was having not only on my psyche, but on all of the people in my social networks. The anxiety, fear, and depression was shared.
The expression of depression among my people was palpable. I could not risk being sucked into that. If I didn’t have symptoms of postpartum depression as it was, I knew I had to take a proactive approach to combatting the post-election depression that was taking down people I knew one by one.
I noticed that to protect themselves, many of my friends had to take a break from social media. They announced they were going silent and needed space from it all. I thought about doing that myself, as a way to protect my postpartum state and focus more on my child and less on the anxiety that stirred every time I read an article about the latest cabinet pick or Twitter attack. But something stopped me from doing that.
There was a common question that people, mostly women, were asking: “What can I do?” Since the election was over, we felt that our fate for the next four years had been sealed. The feeling of helplessness dominated. But as I thought about exiting the realm of social media, when I couldn’t stand the sight one more racist meme being shared by a certain in-law, I realized why I could not turn it off: the beauty. The people I associate with in my life, whom I respect both online and in person, those are the people who have already been doing the work.
I answered their question: “Keep doing that which you are already doing. This isn’t the time to start. It is the time to keep it going.” The beauty lies in the fact that every day when I log in to my Facebook account, I get to see people I know doing incredible things for others. It’s the high school acquaintance who, now as an architect, designs schools for children in Haiti. It’s the former co-worker who is a vocal advocate for her teenager who now identifies as a transgender individual. It’s my cousin who created a group in New Haven, Connecticut, that teaches English to Syrian refugees and welcome them into the larger community. It’s my chaplain friend who is proudly raising her young son as a feminist.
Oh, and especially my friends who are hospice nurses. They get you right in the feels with their musings on the sacred work of caring for the dying. These are my people, and my people are doing beautiful things. And it’s not just the ones who are already doing social justice work and advocacy that make a difference.
There is so much beauty in seeing pictures of “baby’s firsts” and witnessing through shared photos and experiences that so many of my friends are doing the incredibly hard work of raising decent human beings.
That is why I stayed. When I started thinking about what I love about staying connected, it is that I am inspired and filled up by the people who are doing both the radical and mundane things every day to make this world stronger than any elected misogynistic racist can impair. These people do not question whether “white privilege” exists, and they do not mock the Black Lives Matter movement or the need for “safe spaces” on campuses, and they certainly are not threatened by trans people using their restrooms.
You see, these people are not part of the problem. They are part of the solution — always have been and always will be, no matter who is in office. I will not remove myself from being in the presence, online or otherwise, of these people, and that is why I choose to stay connected.
As women, we thought we were on the cusp of a hopeful era as we waited for the glass ceiling to be shattered. What shattered for many, instead, was a sense of security and belief that our policies and laws will serve our interests as women, mothers, and protectors of our vulnerable neighbors.
But we, as women, will be okay because we are used to fighting. Our work continues in our own corners of the world, day by day. So next time you think about bowing out, consider sharing more. Stay and share because I am craving more beauty, more connection, and more inspiration from the people who motivate me to stay in the ring and restore my faith in humanity one status update at a time.