It is the night before the presidential election, 2016.
Secretary of State and former First Lady Hillary Clinton is running against reality tv star, real estate mogul and alleged child molester Donald Trump.
These two individuals are supposed to represent party equivalents. After nearly two years of campaigning I still can’t believe that. I am 32 years old. I’ve voted in every election since 2002; my first presidential vote was for John Kerry in 2004. I still remember the day after George W. Bush was reelected. I was a sophomore at UCSB and an avid runner. When I heard the news I was filled with such apathy and disappointment that I vowed to run until I felt better. I went to the campus track and ran 36 consecutive laps; 9 miles. In the end exhaustion won out. A few months later I left the country for five months.
2008 was a different journey altogether. I was 24 and living in San Francisco, eking out a life as an international student advisor at a local English school. I had finally landed a full-time job after a series of unpaid internships. The cost of my health insurance, which, embarrassingly, my parents paid for, was eclipsed only by my rent. I followed the election religiously and was inspired by Shepard Fairey’s depictions of hope and change that were screen-printed all over my neighborhood. That October I was in Denver for my cousin’s wedding only a few weeks after the Democratic National Convention. I remember running through downtown Denver, admiring the blue graffiti.
The night Obama was elected I was at a friend’s house in the Mission, a bunch of us progressives huddled around a television. After eight years of GW, I was unaccustomed to trusting our political system. And then, live on television, we witnessed history happen. We were all holding pots and pans and wooden spoons, and as soon as the final count came in, we stood up as one, rattling our cookware and laughing. That night I skipped the bus and walked all the way up Mission to Bernal Hill, shouting “O - BAM - A” and slapping high fives with everyone on the street. The city reverberated with a new, tingling energy. That night remains one of the best nights of my life, because few feelings light you up the way real change can. Finally we had a leader who represented our interests, our needs, our contributions, our future.
In January 2009 I bought a ticket to DC to attend the inauguration. I had no invite; there was no formal plan. I just knew I needed to be there, that we were experiencing a generational shift that I needed to witness firsthand. I stayed with some friends in the city and walked through an audience of thousands on the National Mall. It was freezing. I wore a snowboarding jacket and brought hand-warmers. My friends and I could barely make out the line of politicians on the dais, but we could hear the echo of our president’s voice vibrate through the crowd. I will never regret that trip.
I remember only one thing about the 2012 election: Mitt Romney’s “binder full of women.” By then I was 28, a recent master’s graduate, living in San Jose with my then-boyfriend, working a proper nine-to-five. As we watched the votes pour in, I told Ryan that if the country “re-upped four years” with Obama, I, too, would re-up four years with him. A month after Obama was reelected, we got engaged.
Four years is both a substantial passage of time and a drop in the bucket. Gay marriage is now legal. We have more women on the Supreme Court. While we continue to make strides toward creating a fairer, safer world, we still face real threats at home and abroad. Our fellow humans in Syria are suffering. The movement of refugees and migrants across Europe has created yet another humanitarian crisis that we as Americans must address. Though we have made great progress for our LGTBQ communities, we still have a long way to go in supporting our transgender allies. Gun violence is real. Violence against people of color, often at the hands of law enforcement, is documented at an uncanny pace, and yet justice still awaits the victims and their families. Whoever becomes president has their job cut out for them.
While 2016 has been a particularly turbulent year around the world, it has been a year of milestones for my family. Ryan and I had our first child, a girl, in May. We did not know her gender throughout my pregnancy; a conscious choice, because we (okay, I) did not want to burden our child with undue expectations before entering the world. I was actually quite certain that I was carrying a boy. When I first saw her, late at night after an exciting and adrenaline-filled labor, I was too surprised to absorb this new love. Ten seconds into life and she had already subverted my expectations. She was small but powerful, with a voice that echoed down the halls of the hospital. Her entire being lit me up. Here she was, this new human. She didn’t know what it meant to be a woman. All she could do was fill her lungs with air and release her energy to the world. And when she cried, I felt it in my body: she is inheriting a new world.
A world where a woman could be the president of the United States.
It is the night before the election and she is asleep in her crib. I am restless. The radio is always on. I keep refreshing New York Times. I have to believe we will win. I have to know that my girl will be born in an era when the first African-American president turns over the White House to the first woman in the Oval Office. I have to believe this, because if we succeed in choosing love over hate, in embracing diversity over fear, then my daughter has so much more to believe in as a young woman. With a woman in a position of political power, she can grow up focusing on her skills and talents, and not her gender. Her experience, knowledge and compassion will be valued as highly as (if not higher than) her appearance.
Tonight, as with all other election eves, I went on a run. This time I took my daughter.