In 2016, my four-year-old daughter painted my nails red and blue, and I cast my ballot for the first woman president of the United States. I was certain my neighbors recognized what I already had: Donald Trump was dangerous, deranged, and would hurt us all.
But I was wrong.
I went to bed early on election night, a knot rising from my stomach as state after state turned red.
“Georgia is predictably republican,” said my partner at the time. “We have to wait for the swing states.”
But I didn’t wait. Something dark unfolded in my psyche, an underbelly knowledge that had been there all along: people are crueler than you want to believe.
That night, I naively dreamed of hope, and the shock I felt in the morning rattled my core. Perhaps people weren’t intrinsically good, but they couldn’t bethis bad, right? This callous? This blatantly selfish and ignorant? Maybe they were just afraid?
I still don’t have the answers, but I’m less enchanted by sweeping statements of morality now. If the last four years have taught me anything, it’s how gray we all are, every single one of us.
I’m not sure how to reconcile with 2016 or the past four years. I’m also not sure how to explain the results of this election either because somewhere between children in cages, threats to my bodily autonomy as a woman, and continued support of a for-profit healthcare system that ultimately punishes people with chronic illnesses, destroys their quality of life, and makes sick people, like me, choose between treatment and food, I lost all my hope.
The world is untethered from reason, and whether by design or consequence, I don’t know, but I do know I’ll spend the rest of my life leaping from light to light, outrunning the darkness until I cannot run anymore.
This year, when I woke up on election day, a watercolor masterpiece pierced through the November clouds. What a beautiful sky. And what a mockery of our pain.
I went about my day avoiding the news, accepting the inevitable crushing defeat and reaffirmation of hatred. I tried refocusing on those spots of light I couldcontrol, but panic still rose in my throat. Then, Wednesday dawned without an answer, and I gave in to the news channels, shocked that maybe, somehow, I was wrong again. Maybe we held even more shades of gray than I ever considered before.
If you’ve read any of my work, you’ll know I am a leftist. As an artist, part of the theatre community, the LGBT+ community, a chronically ill person, and a pro-choice feminist, my core beliefs are in direct opposition to the Republican party ideals. To be honest, they don’t always mesh with the Democratic platform either, but there’s an obvious evil on one side and a malleable evil on the other. I have to ensure we’ve met Maslov’s foundational hierarchy of needs before I can address the nuances of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, after all.
But, when after four days of harrowing media coverage they announced Joe Biden and Kamala Harris’ success, I took my first deep breath in four years. Could kindness win?
I still don’t know.
I believe the world and the people within it are gray creatures — unpredictable, afraid, and certainly angry –but maybe there are more places of light than I realized, and maybe, just maybe, they can grow.