Last night, I went to bed knowing that Donald Trump had won the election. The announcement had not yet been made, but the trajectory was clear. I went to bed when I knew that it was over. Like many of my friends, I slept poorly. I lay trembling in my bed as I struggled to fall asleep, then woke up multiple times throughout the night.
Today, more than one of my friends spoke on facebook of the nightmares they had last night once they managed to fall asleep. I didn’t have any nightmares, but in between wake-ups, I had a few dreams. Some were about polls and vote counts. One was about getting to one of my schools so I could work with a student there. And there was also a dream about how they were rebuilding Penn Station in New York. I don’t recall the dream itself now as much as I recall the concept of it, but I think I was trying to get somewhere, and instead of Penn Station, there was a mess, a sort of construction site, with blocked off escalators and scattered debris.
The current Penn Station isn’t so great. It’s ugly and hard to navigate and what’s even worse is that it replaced an older station that was beautiful and grand. New York City learned a lesson from that, and created the Landmarks Preservation Commission. This came too late for Penn Station, but at least we managed to save Grand Central Terminal. At least we learned our lesson.
In my dream, they were tearing down Penn Station to build a new one. Today, in the real world, there are plans to build a new Penn Station. If those plans come to fruition, Penn Station will once again be beautiful, grand, and easy to navigate. In reality, as opposed to in my dream, it seems that the station will also be moving over by one block, which means that, technically, they don’t have to tear down the old one in order to build the new one.
But in the broader sense, like in my dream, replacing a building means first tearing it down.
While Penn Station was a mess in my dream, and while it inconvenienced me, I knew that, ultimately, things would get better. Eventually, Penn Station would emerge from the dust and the debris as a more beautiful, more pleasant, more user-friendly place to travel through.
And when I woke up at 4 am, I wasn’t bothered by the mess in my dream, because sometimes things have to get worse before they get better.
Today, I spent a lot of time crying, mourning the president that could have been but didn’t get to be. Mourning everything she would have stood for, both because of what she was fighting for and also because of who she is. I also watched her address the nation with strength and with dignity as she accepted her loss with grace and laid out a path forward. She told us what we need to do to make this country as great as it can be. I watched her stand there, calm and strong, while the rest of us did the crying for her.
Our country has women like Hillary Clinton. Our country has people with her strength, her drive, and her desire to make this country a better place for all of the people who live here.
Right now, our country is broken. There are so many people who are hurting, so many people who are scared. They fear for their freedom, their health, their safety, their lives.
And there are so many of us mourning for the victory that could have been, for the construction of a better country, a grander country, a country where every resident can navigate through their lives without having to worry about whether their skin is the wrong color, their body the wrong gender, their origin the wrong country, their beliefs the wrong creed.
What we have right now is broken. What we have right now needs fixing. But sometimes when you fix things, they have to get worse before they get better. Sometimes, you have to break it more before enough people figure out what it is we need to fix.
And I can only hope that now is one of those times, that now, when it gets worse, people will open their eyes and see just how much work we need to do in order to make things better. That people will realize that we can be better, that we will be better, as long as we are willing to work to make it happen.
In 2020, New York is supposed to have a new Penn Station. In 2020, another set of candidates will have another chance to fight for what is right and another chance to fix what is broken. We have four years to figure out how to do that, four years to draw up a blueprint and get to work. Four years begin the tearing down and then begin the rebuilding.
Today, I spent a lot of time mourning what could have been, but in the middle of it all, I saw a woman stand before her country and concede this election with strength and dignity. I listened with tears in my eyes as she laid out a path to follow as we move on from the disaster that was yesterday and look ahead to building a brighter future. I saw her strength and that strength gave me hope. Even as I stood there crying, I felt pride. I am proud that I voted for Hillary Clinton, and proud to live in a time and place where a woman like her can exist. And mixed with that pride is a sliver of hope, a trust that there are others like her in our country, others who will follow her lead.
Tonight, I am cling to the hope, to the trust that with that strength, we will get through the bad times, that we will turn adversity into determination, that we will emerge from this mess as a stronger, more beautiful, better country. I don’t doubt that things are about to get worse, but when we’ve made it through the next few years, maybe we will have better tools, better blueprints, better skills, and we will be ready to build this country up into something better.