Unlike some of my friends, I have not met you. I am envious of the smiling photos popping up on my newsfeed, the nervous college interns shaking hands with a senator. Unlike some of my friends, I cannot recall when I first saw you. It was likely an early snapshot of a woman in a modest skirt, pearls, standing beside her husband with the sophisticated demure of a First Lady. Unlike some of my friends, I am not certain of the exact moment, inspiring speech, or interview when you earned my vote.
But Hillary – you earned my vote.
For eleven months, I watched you in awe. You spoke in articulate sentences of ideals and equality and protecting the basic right of human decency. You targeted the current pitfalls of America and offered viable solutions. You handled the tantrums of a child, patiently waiting for his insults to exhaust him until he moped in the corner while you conversed with the adults. With every debate, interview, and rally, I watched a woman who exuded intelligence in her presence and speech. I watched a woman who was calm, confident, and in control. I watched a woman who I wanted to be.
I woke up on a brisk Tuesday in November with the frenzy of hope in my heart. Just before the rush of Manhattan lunch hour, I waited in a line of strangers at East 56th and 3rd. The line snaked around the corner three city blocks and though I was annoyed, I was also pleased. To see so many Americans huddled in unison, perhaps not united in our opinions, but united in the desire to voice them. And once a year, every 4 years, we have this privilege.
After two hours, I finally entered the High School of Art and Design. There was a banner flashing a greeting across the entrance, “Have a Nice Day!” and the walls were splattered with colorful adolescent art in bold shapes. The woman at the table directed me to Floor Five, Table 38. Take the elevator, she instructed me, and I did. I was eager to follow the rules on this day, to show my understanding of established order. The elevator was small and everyone squeezed in, avoiding each other’s gaze, nervously commenting about the weather.
It was unseasonably warm for November, but winter was coming. The forecast this winter: brutal.
The voting tables were spread in the gymnasium, voices bounced off the walls and basketball nets dangled over our heads. The bleachers were tucked away like a folded accordion. I recalled high school pep rallies where I sat watching the cheerleaders in their ponytails and short skirts. In high school, every girl wanted to be a cheerleader. We did not yet have the maturity to want more. We were not yet given the choice to be more. Until now, that is.
I found Table 38 and was handed a ballot the size of a menu. I sat alone at a bleacher in the corner and found your name at the top: Hillary Clinton for President. I filled in the bubble with my black pen, intensely darkening it so no one would doubt it. I took three stickers: one for my coat, one for my blouse, one for my fridge so I would remember this day. To see a woman’s name on this list, to know that I was a part of this historical moment, it made me so proud of us. I was so proud of these fifty states united, this America.
I am no longer proud of America.
But Hillary – I must tell you how proud I am of you. I am so proud of the grace with which you held your head high when they threw mud repeatedly to soil your message with hate. I am so proud of the composure you maintained during offensive attacks and dangerous words hurled at you with a force that breaks walls instead of building them. I am so proud to be a woman in a world where you are a woman. You inspire me. With your values, your words, and your white pantsuit.
I refuse to call the man who America elected my president. He is many things, but he is not my president. You were my president, Hillary.
And I’m still with you.