2020 is racing towards us with deliberate speed. This time next year, we’ll know if a Democrat won the presidential election, or if we’re in for 4 more years of falling further down the rabbit hole towards an unspeakable, irreversible nightmare.
I admit, I don’t feel ready. As I moved through 2019, the time raced through my fingers and the pit of my stomach perpetually boiled with a mix of excitement and terror. Doesn’t it feel like we all just woke up the morning after Election Day 2016 and began the heavy task of acquainting ourselves with the dread that would be our constant companion over the next 48 months? Where did the time go? Have we prepared enough? Are we ready? Can we really make this happen next year? What happens if we don’t? Will I be safe in this country if Trump wins a second term? Is my passport current? Who do I know overseas that might be willing to take me in?
If the inside of your head looks anything like the feverish firestorm of questions listed above, this post is for you. If I’m being honest, it’s also for me, because I swing from despair to hope faster than it takes Donald Trump to attack teenage activists on Twitter.
2020 has been the goal on the horizon since the end of 2016. It has gleamed in the distance — the light at the end of a deep, dark, desolate tunnel — as we’ve toiled over the last few years, laying the necessary groundwork and readying ourselves for battle. We’ve looked forward to its promise as we’ve slogged gamely through midterms and off year elections on our grim march towards the finish line. Now that 2020 is nearly here, I feel equal parts determined elation and crippling fear. I recently had major dental surgery, and the feeling was similar, though on a much smaller scale: you know this is going to cost you — mentally and physically, as well as financially — and it’s going to hurt, but because you know it has to be done, you hunch your shoulders into the wind and soldier through, hoping for the best while simultaneously expecting the worst.
Okay, maybe it’s not like dental surgery at all. Dental surgery is actually much better by comparison. You know exactly what you’re getting yourself into, and the fate of the free world isn’t hanging in the balance when the dentist picks up her pointy silver tools and leans into your open mouth.
So what do we do about all of this pent up anxiety and despair? How do we turn that buzzing energy into fuel for the fight we’ll have to undertake from January 1st through November 3rd? Is there a way to protect the flickering candle flame of hope from the lashing winds of despair? That may be too maudlin a description for your tastes, but it feels to me like everything is on the line. Like everyone involved will need to be on their A game at all times.
It also feels like there’s no way in hell I’ll be able to do all the work necessary to ensure success. This persistent dread has its origins in the upset of the 2016 elections, but it has grown into its own thing now. It follows me everywhere — this dark specter of ominous things to come — and it makes me question every strategy and action, every program and candidate, every instinct and better judgment. The anxiety underscores my every waking moment. It has become a constant in these last few tumultuous years, so much so that its frenetic energy has almost morphed into a kind of comfort — knowing it’s there means knowing I’m alive. I worry, therefore I am. But this oddly familiar feeling is also the enemy.
Everything is riding on the next eleven months. The soul of this imperfect nation. The ever evolving freedom of black and brown people. LGBTQ equality. A Woman’s right to bodily autonomy and access to reproductive services. Education. The environment. Social security. Healthcare access. Everything. All of it. Think of something you care about, and it too is at risk.
We can’t allow the sticky blackness of despair to cause us to falter, to doubt ourselves, to question our commitment to this fight, to divide us. We’ve spent the last few years stockpiling strength, slaying the midterms, and building the endurance that will get us through the prolonged sprint of the presidential election year. The point of despair is to derail that progress, to make it seem as though our goals are unattainable, and to sink us so deeply into fear that the only option left is to give up. In that uncertain darkness, it can be easy to forget those that will stand and fight with us.
At the center of despair lies loneliness. But the antidote to loneliness is solidarity, and the enemy of despair is hope.
Over the next eleven months, cling to that enduring hope as you’re toiling to right the longstanding wrongs in this country. When despair rises, threatening to consume all available light at the end of the dark tunnel in which we find ourselves, guard that flickering spark. It may seem fragile, but its resilience is the same as what you’ll find in the mirror when you face yourself each morning before leaving the house for another long day of hustling for change.
This work can feel thankless, worthless, endless, hopeless. We can forget those that are fighting with us as the darkness rises, doing its best to seal us into our own solitary nightmares. But no one stands alone in this work. We stand on the shoulders of the ones who came before us, arm in arm, so those who come after us can rise up onto our shoulders and stand even taller.
Brace yourselves, friends, because the year ahead will be difficult. Sleep will be elusive and free time nonexistent, but caffeine will be plentiful. I know we can do this, because we must do it. Lean in, and I’ll lean with you.