A lot has happened in the past few weeks—frankly a lot has happened this past year. In the United States, Donald J. Trump has become president-elect. There have been countless think pieces on the outcome of this election. Many news outlets and pundits did not expect such an ending; everyone was certain that Hillary Clinton would become the next president. But the reality of this election was far more different and complex than news outlets had predicted. They had not anticipated the movement that was Trump’s candidacy. Donald Trump did not win the popular vote, but did obtain the most electoral votes. The point of this piece is not to discuss what the electoral college is. Nor is it a think piece on the election itself. Rather, this is all about what I learned about myself post election.
Candidly, I did not vote for Donald Trump. I voted for Bernie Sanders in the primaries, and I voted for Hillary in the election. I did not believe in the rhetoric of Trump. His stances of reproductive rights, as well as his views on Muslims and immigration frightened me. As a woman, I also could not comprehend his pussy-grabbing comments and his dismissal of rape or sexual assault. What came after the election was a series of hate crimes and a cesspool of internet trolls and utter hatred. Everyone seemed to hate each other. And the news outlets and think pieces about what a Trump presidency would entail unleashed inside me a fear I had not imagined before. For the first time in my life I was afraid of being attacked, of being singled out, and of a war. Suddenly, the potential for my own physical suffering felt too close and real. Whether these feelings and theories will be correct I do not know. Only time will tell what the future holds.
However, I learned something integral about myself: I may not be afraid of death, but I am terrified of suffering. This realization fascinates me. I have prided myself as an individual who has come to terms with the reality of death. I do not fantasize immortality. But here was this fantasy of me encountering a world in which I was physically suffering. This was a future where I may be tortured, discriminated and attacked, and potentially killed. The very idea of struggling plummeted me in a spiral of despair. Let me say this now: no one has ever physically assaulted me. Nor have I experienced blatant discrimination—at least not for my color. I have experienced sexism, but never have I felt threatened. But I found it easy to enter a world, in my mind, in which these possibilities were much too real.
Am I afraid of death? Are my claims of “I accept that I will die” simply a front for what is an actual struggle with mortality? I don’t think I am afraid of death. But the comforts of the 21st century and the fortunate life I have led have softened me. I am a product of a generation that has had technology and tools to ease my existence. The very thought of not having them alone invokes a sense of sacrifice and suffering. Thus physical suffering has been reserved to scrapes and cuts: minor battle scars from being alive. I viewed myself in the mirror and for the first time I was forced to grapple with my physical existence and the potential end of it. Ultimately I will die. Everyone will die. It’s the natural cycle of life. But when the time comes, how will I understand my body? Do we ever really come to terms with living or dying? Or are we merely pretending that the inevitable won’t happen: that death will come to us, and we will have absolutely no control of how we go. This is a question, regardless of personal beliefs, that we have no real answer to. All we can do is wait. And along the way we learn more about ourselves and how we handle the ways in which life comes at us. When things get difficult, how will we react?