On Tuesday night, I went to the Morristown Neighborhood House like I do every week. For the last month and a half I have been a teacher assistant in an ESOL class, where I've helped adult Latin American immigrants learn English. I’ve listened to their stories and shared my own while we laughed together and sang together. I have grown to truly care about these people, so when one of them reached for my hand and asked in broken English “Señorita, do you honestly think Hillary Clinton can win?” I gave her a smile and replied without a hint of hesitation.
“Of course she will win,” I'd said, my voice powerful and resolute. Naturally, I was worried. I didn’t want to see the large number of people that would vote for Donald Trump. I was not ready to see how many people in this country hated me. So, I was positive the good would win. “She will win because the people in this country cannot agree with such a hateful candidate.”
When I left the Neighborhood House, Clinton was still winning, even if Donald Trump was catching up. So we all kissed each others' cheeks and went home full of hope.
Now, I have to go back on Tuesday and tell them I was wrong.
By the time I got back on campus, Donald Trump was ahead in the race. I refused to go to the Election Watch party at my university, because if the red on the map continued to spread, I was going to break into tears. So I stayed in my dorm, and when the pain became too much to handle it by myself, I found solace in my floor’s lounge with a few of my friends.
It was midnight when I started crying for the first time.
I thought about turning off my laptop and cellphone and going to bed, just to let things happen on their own, but I knew I wouldn’t be able to sleep at all if I didn’t know the results of the election. So, I stayed up. I tried my hardest to complete the homework that was due at 9 am the next day, I slowly watched the map turn red as I tried to make math work in Clinton’s favor.
This can’t be happening, I wrote in my notebook at some point. This has to be a bad nightmare. The New York Times said Hillary would win by a landslide She still has time. She can catch up.
My mom texted me late at night, and told me everything would be okay. I tried to believe her, because my mom always knows best. If she said that everything would be fine, then Donald Trump wouldn’t win. She went to bed, and so did some of my friends. People kept popping into the lounge, all with weary faces and puffy eyes from crying. I'm sure I didn’t look any better.
“Wake me up and tell me what happens,” my roommate said before going to sleep.
The banner on CNN changed, and it was announced that Hillary had conceded the election to Donald Trump. I wanted to cry. I wanted to scream. I wanted to die. I did none of those things.
“Come on, we have to tell them, we have to go to sleep,” my friend said, and I blindly followed. I placed my stuff back in my dorm, and opened my mouth to say something to my sleeping roommate, but I couldn’t. Then I left to the bathroom. I brushed my teeth and stared at my own reflection for a long time. My eyes were red, my hair disheveled and my lips bleeding from biting into them all night long.
After that, I prayed. I prayed that it had all been a bad joke. I prayed long and hard, before I cried again, finally making my way back to my room.
I checked my phone to see if my prayers had changed the outcome of the election, but they hadn’t. So I woke up my roommate and I told her the unthinkable had happened.
“Are you f*cking kidding me?” she asked.
I wanted to tell her I was, but I wasn't.
Before going to bed, I wrote a letter to the United States. In it, I reflected upon what it felt like to have fought so hard and so long to find a way to get into an American college, only to be betrayed like this. I openly expressed my disappointment for my host country.
I woke up to dozens of likes and loving comments on my post. It was only logical that my Mexican family and friends understood the way I felt. The majority of the American people I know voted for Hillary, and more than one had made sure to stop by and let me know they were with me in my grief. My international friends shared the same fears I had. What is going to happen to the rest of the world now?
Unfortunately, I also received a lot of negative responses. I posted my article without security restrictions, because I am not ashamed of the way I think. I thought it was important that both the people in and out my life understood my feelings towards the election. Some of my friends shared my post, and I felt proud of them for doing so, but not all of their friends felt the same way. I woke up to more than several hateful messages from people I had never heard of in my entire life.
You are not even American, one of them said in between racist slurs. Why do you even care?
The anger that filled me is impossible to describe.
I had gotten less than two hours of sleep. My throat and eyes were sore from crying and my stomach was upset and empty from throwing up the night before. I felt as if my whole life had been destroyed, and yet some people went out of their way to insult my right to an opinion.
Why do I care?
Because the Mexican peso went down 12% overnight. Not only did I see the map turn red, but I watched as my own currency went down. With every state that went to Trump, my money vanished from the bank. With every second, my chances of coming back to study in the U.S. the next semester grew thinner.
Because I am already discriminated against. It’s been two months since I got to this country, and I have already been insulted for the color of my skin, my pronunciation, my sexual orientation and my gender. I am a bisexual Mexican woman, and as the election results came out, I only noticed the glass ceiling grow ten inches thicker and the discrimination that I already face become normalized and encouraged.
Because the people in the United States clearly don’t care. Because millions of eligible voters decided to stay at home and let their country decide without them. Because 15,000 people voted for Harambe, a dead gorilla, a meme, which shows what's worth more than the future of the world in this country. Lastly, I care because my life is greatly affected by the results of this election, and I didn’t even get a say.
Because I am a citizen of the world, as my friend wrote in her own article. Americans seldom realize their decisions affect the rest of the world. They don’t understand that by choosing the way they did, they limited the choices of the majority of the people outside of the United States. And that gives me a right to care.
I was already furious by 10 am, but as the day progressed and people continued to remind me to be “graceful” and “understanding," as they insisted that I don't call all Trump voters the same adjectives I’ve used to describe him, I grew angrier.
Why is it okay for them to discriminate against me? Why is it okay for them to call me a rapist just because of the place I was born in, but it’s not okay for me to call them on their own misogyny? Why should I be graceful and smile when they beat people to a pulp just because of their sexual orientation? How can I stay quiet when all they do is scream insults at me and my people? Why don’t I get to hate them, when they get to hate me?
At least some nice things happened that night, I told myself, trying to bring some light to the situation. Tuesday night, I received encouraging words from the most unexpected sources. I got hugs from people that I didn’t know knew my name. I was further reassured that my friends loved me, that they cared about me. So things couldn’t be that bad, right?
After all, Samuel Park –– a son of Korean immigrants –– made history as the first openly gay man in Georgia’s legislature. Tammy Duckworth continues to show the world how hardworking and incredible women are. Adriano Espaillat became the first Dominican-American congressman in history (Not to mention, he's also the first undocumented immigrant in Congress). The number of women of color in the senate quadrupled, and the first Latina ever found her way into Washington.
So, I got up Wednesday morning. I showed up to all of my classes, even though I broke down crying in two of them. I refused to stay in bed and let what had happened take a toll on me. I told myself that if I got through that day, if I did all my homework, if I stayed strong, then things would be better in the morning.
They were not.
The results of the elections affected people all around me. The campus was quiet and solemn. Everywhere I looked, people broke into spontaneous sobbing. All around the internet, people shared horrible things that had happened within hours of Trump being elected president. Women were sexually harassed, lgbtq+ people were hurt, and immigrants were humiliated.
I took so many naps during the previous week, every time almost wishing not to open my eyes again. I broke into sobs because of the smallest things, I looked up tickets to fly back home. My school encouraged post-election care, which was something I had never heard of in my entire life. They provided safe spaces for reflection and prayer, something that should never be needed.
I felt miserable for feeling miserable. Where was all of my anger? Where were all of my intentions of proving Donald Trump wrong? How could I prove to bigotry that I was a powerful, intelligent, beautiful and proud bisexual, Mexican female if I couldn't even get out of bed?
And then a teacher opened my eyes. "People are saying that there is no time for mourning, that we must take to the streets now and change the world, but please don't do that," she'd said during a panel entitled Making Sense of the Election. "Please allow yourself to mourn, to feel your pain, or that pain is going to remain inside of you, and it will rotten your future decisions."
I might be paraphrasing, but what she said had truly resonated with me. Because of her words, I allowed myself to feel my pain, and the sun did eventually come out.
Hillary Clinton won the popular vote. If the political system in the United States didn't work the way it does, my article this week would be entirely different. I wouldn't be as scared as I am for my friends' and my safety.
But that is not the way things work.
Still, I would have no right to be angry at those who decided to not vote if I didn't act myself. So, I decided to act.
I got through the week, I allowed myself to have fun with my friends on Thursday evening and I made sure to catch up on my sleep Friday night. On Saturday morning, I woke up early and volunteered with a few friends on Habitat for Humanity. I picked myself up, the way I am sure America will pick itself up.
I am determined to prove Donald Trump and his followers wrong. I am determined to be successful despite everything they throw my way. And I invite you to do the same. Be angry, because you are entitled to be. Cry and allow yourself to feel the pain. But accept that this is the way things are, and that only you can change them.
By destroying buildings and homes, by screaming "Not my President!" you are only proving them right about who they think we are. So don't do that; please don't give them any more wrong reasons to hate us. Instead, act peacefully but powerfully.
Join a peaceful protest.
Go to school.
Do your job.
Be happy. Because in the face of adversity, happiness is the biggest weapon we have.