Yesterday at 4:03 pm, I greeted my 12 year old daughter as she abruptly opened the door returning from school. The first thing she did (and always does) was drop her overly filled backpack to the floor, kick off her shoes, and dramatically took off her mask as if she had been suffering with it on all day. After she settled, I said "well, we have a new President!" Then I asked her simply, "how do you feel?" Without missing a beat, she looked me straight in the eye and said "Safe." Suddenly, a rush of emotion flooded me, with just that one concise word. She seemed so sure of it's meaning and confident that it was the best way to describe exactly how she now felt in our world. It was perfect. Without warning or preparation, my mind travelled back to January 21, 2017 and i couldn't help but recognize and appreciate the way it changed me.
Four years ago today I found myself in Washington D.C. standing in a serpent-like line, waiting to board a subway train that would take me on a journey that would ultimately change my life. With a bright pink knit hat perched upon my head, my trusty dslr camera, and an unsettling feeling in the pit of my stomach, I stood beside one of my closest friends and two strangers, while patiently waiting in line.
It was such a chance encounter; an impulse of a decision. It was two days before the March when I committed to going. This is not like me. Although I wish I was more spontaneous, that has never been an adjective I would use to describe myself. I thrive on order, routine, preparation. But for some reason, when my like-minded friend asked me to join her, to drop everything, arrange care for my two young children, re-arrange any prior engagements, jump into her stereotypical suburban mom white mini van, with two additional people I have never met, to go to D.C. and march for Women's rights - I couldn't say anything but "yes."
Little did I know this trip would change my life. It would shape me into the person I am today. It would show me that the world is way more compassionate than I thought. It would teach me that judgement is futile, difference is valuable, and voices are important. That gathering in a crowd of people who want to be treated better, respected more, and valued more - would make me re-examine my experience, my moments of inequality, and also my privilege. To march aside so many people from different walks of life, different stories, different ideals, but all be fighting for the same thing, is and was truly liberating.
The March itself was not a march. We barely moved, let alone walked. There were too many of us crowding the streets to produce any sort of movement. There were moments that I was sandwiched between people and finding my breath was difficult. In those moments, fear did not escape me. I thought to myself that if something happened - if some domestic terrorist came to flex their muscles at this event and the crowd started scattering, I would surely be trampled and killed. Myself and my four other companions, often grabbed one another's hands to verify we would stay together. However, to my utmost surprise and wonder, I was never threatened. In this crowd that they say was between 3,267,134 and 5,246,670 people, I was safe. There was no violence, no deaths, no threats of tear gas or rubber bullets. No tears of fear, only tears of hope and peace. We wanted the world to know that even with a sexist "pussy grabbing" President in our White House, we still mattered. We still had rights. We still are equal. The chanting was the theme song to our cause, the posters were the advertisement to our purpose. Women, Men, children, Christians, Muslims, Jews, Black people, Brown people, White people, Gay people, Trans people, Straight people - it didn't matter. We all held hands and peacefully embraced this President the best way we knew how. To unite together and make sure our voices were heard, our message was clear, and our integrity was not compromised.
That day, my friends and I embraced with tears in our eyes and hope in our heart. The two strangers I had never spoke to the day before I climbed into that van, became great friends and two people I will forever be bonded with regardless of where our lives take us. That evening, after the March, we celebrated with wine glasses full of whiskey (or was it Bourbon?) as we chatted about the days woes and wonders. We swapped stories of what our eyes had seen just in case another person had missed it. We recounted favorite signs with favorite sayings. We marveled at the fact that we were a part of history and change. We cried tears of pure hope and emotion that day and cried tears of joy and laughter that evening. I keep trying to put into the words the importance of that day and the way it felt, smelled, tasted. I just can't seem to do it justice.
There are some people in my life who thought my intentions were to go there and protest our new President. That was not the reason I jumped in the van that morning. The initial reason I went to the Women's March was simple; my daughter. I wanted her to know that she is capable of anything in this world. She can do anything a man can do and do it better. She deserves respect, equality, and equal opportunity. I wanted her to live in a world where she she knew that there were people out there that fought for injustices and would hold you up when you felt like you were crashing down. Admittedly, when I left D.C. there was a slew of others reasons I went. To witness history. To open my eyes to what advocacy looks like. To take a chance and do something that means something. To let the new POTUS know that he would not dictate me or my actions and that the woman of our country will not be silenced. But ultimately, it was for my daughter and for her right to feel safe.