About three weeks before November 8, I requested some time off from work. My reasoning was that I hadn’t had a real summer vacation and the rest of the work week after that day would be as good a time as ever. I knew, deep down, that was a reason but also another was clear – I was burnt out. Emotionally, mentally, physically burnt out. I’d been paying a massive amount of attention to the 2016 presidential election and that alone was enough to make someone frazzled.
Leading up to this, maybe a few months prior to November, I’d been listening to a podcast and it was by no means political and was actually about reality TV. However, during the episode’s introduction, the host started talking about how she and those close to her were feeling. She spoke to how she was generally feeling a bit ‘down’ and vulnerable. She clearly identified that she has known depression and that this was not that, but she had been feeling just generally uneasy lately. A point was made that there is something going on, maybe something in the air, that just felt off and unsettling. This resonated with me because I had also been feeling this way – a little uneasy, a bit unsure, and vulnerable. It clicked later that it was literally being caused by the 2016 election and its coverage.
I had been reading and following news about the election what felt like constantly. It seemed like there was always a story coming out or a tweet to dissect. Nothing could be missed. The sheer amount of tabs in my browser window grew to be outrageous at times. I talked with coworkers and friends about the election cycle and the candidates so frequently there seemed like times that information overlapped and actually we had already both read the same article or had sent it to each other already. Some of my female relatives started a group message on election night as we watched polls come in and the mood in it grew somber and disheartened as the night wore on.
So on Wednesday November 9th, I woke after a fitful few hours of sleep and still felt… fatigue. I still felt uneasy. I still felt unsure. And I felt even more vulnerable. I still feel that as I write this a few days later and I am actively reminding myself to practice some self care – I’ll probably take a shower when I finish. The actions I’ve been trying to focus on are small: a shower, cooking a meal, going to a spin class, not wearing yoga pants to go out to meet a friend.
The information overload continues and I still have dozens of tabs open on my computer. I have never watched so much MSNBC in my life as I have in the time since November 8th and became almost disoriented when I tried to make a decision to watch anything else. To watch or pay attention to anything else would feel disingenuous, almost. I live in Arlington, Virginia which is a stone’s throw from Washington, DC. What is happening right now is literally history (herstory?) and it would feel wrong, to me at least, to look away. I feel obligated to bear witness to the state of the country and what I and those close to me are feeling.
And I will be honest – it feels like work. It is not easy and taking in everything from the shocking statistic we’ve all seen, 53% namely, to the number of sexual assault and harassment allegations that have taken place is heavy. But it is real – this is our reality right now. To not see it and acknowledge it would not be fair. It would be wrong. We have to see these things and know them because otherwise we are not paying attention and starting to do the work.
I took my PTO initially as a time to recharge and unwind. I did not do that and the world does not seem like it wants to, either. And I want to use that readiness and that drive to motivate me – and it is. Below are some links to resources about things to do now and organizations to know. We will have time to sleep and rest and those opportunities should be taken – I’m trying to get my 8 hours each night but also, let’s use that time to prepare. Four years is a long time and right now, there’s work to get started on.