Tuesday, November 15, 2016

301. A letter to Melanie, 11/08

Dear Melanie,
I’ve been thinking about what to write to you after the election last Tuesday. This isn’t the letter I wanted to write to you. If Hillary Clinton had won, I probably would have written you something about glass ceilings and pantsuits and great it was to live in a country that elected a woman as president. Unfortunately, I am not writing you that letter. I’m writing you a letter that may be considered more of a gut punch than a pat on the back.

Last Tuesday came down to this: the decent candidate lost, and the indecent candidate won. Taking away any discussion on policy, that’s what it came down to. The bully, the racist, the sexist, the fear-monger won the election. And the sad part is, so many Americans equated that sort of campaigning with leadership. That will baffle me and frighten me for a long time for a long time.

It’s probably not going to be OK. It’s probably going to get worse before it gets better. The world is going to seem like a much scarier place for a while. I don’t think any adult ever wants to tell a kid those things. I am sorry for that.

I’ll let you in on a secret: adults get scared, a lot. We just like to think we do not. This is both good and bad. I used to think that my parents knew what they were doing all the time. They don’t. This is the first time in my life that I am very, very scared for the future. I am scared for the future of race relations. I am scared about international incidents. And I am scared for the health of the planet. I wish I wasn’t.

I have many, many thoughts on everything, but here are the few bits of wisdom that I’ve been able to pull out of the wreckage of this past week:

-If you want something, put it out into the world. If there is anything good that’s come from this election, it’s made me realize what I can and cannot control. I can’t solve systemic racism, but I can put kindness out into the world and learn a little bit more about these big problems. I want a kind, safe, and welcoming planet, so I’m trying to be an example of that. I’ve tried to say hi to a few more people. I’ve tried to be a little bit nicer to those I interact with on a daily basis, and I’ve just tried to be a listening ear for many. I probably wouldn’t have done any of those things had Hillary won. Be an example, don’t wait for others to do it.

-All you can do is show up and offer your gift. You have many gifts, Melanie. I’m excited to see how you grow and use them. There’s going to be a part of you that wants to solve all of the world’s problems, but also feels pulled down the weight of them all. All you can do is show up and offer your gift. It’s not up to you on whether someone takes you up on your gift, all you have to do is keep showing up. I spent most of the day last Wednesday texting friends and asking how they were doing, some of whom I hadn’t spoken to in a while. It felt good just to check in with them. One friend, a woman of color, was furious and terrified. I wanted to comfort her, but I didn’t want to tell her that “it’s going to be all right.” I told her that the country and my life is better with her in it, and that I would do everything I could to make this country a safe and welcoming place for her and for people like her. Just show up and offer your gift.

-My biggest direct piece of advice is, learn how to introduce yourself to people. Be the one to break the ice. Say hello to people and introduce yourself. Don’t be afraid to walk up to a stranger at a party and say hi. This is a skill that people are losing. I think a lot of the mess we’re in has stemmed from people not wanting to get to know one another, and also substituting “real” relationships with one's online. While those types of connections are fine, they are missing that warmth that comes with genuine human connection. Get to know people who don’t look like you or live in the same culture you do. That’s hard, but it pays dividends.

Be an example.
Show up, offer your gift.
Meet people who aren’t like you.

That’s all I got for now.


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