Last Sunday was my 22nd birthday, the first in a long line of birthdays with no extra legal benefits attached. A friend of a friend wrangled five free tickets to Shedd Aquarium in Chicago, the city of my dreams, the love of my life, so at 7 AM on Saturday we piled into cars and drove, drove, drove.
There’s no hiding that the past week has been agonizing. I was afraid that even Chicago would be ruined, that the air would still feel tight and sour with fear. But I shouldn’t have bothered. With all the construction on crosswalks during rush hour, the street performers banging gallon tubs outside the Museum of Modern Art, the newlyweds taking pictures on the steps of Millennium Park, the people with their eyes closed and humming in a circle of guided meditation in front of the Bean, the young girl taking pictures in her quinceñara and the choir gearing up in the Cultural Center, there wasn’t all that much space for fear.
Now I’m back in post-election Middletown USA, a liberal student surrounded by conservative townsfolk. Not all Trump voters are bad, and not all Clinton voters are elitist, but there is no denying the awful, horrible, no-good, really bad racist, sexist, and all-around sucky messages the Trump campaign is now bringing to the White House.
The next four years are going to be very difficult, but we can never stop fighting for what is right. Our strength as a species lies in our ability to empathize with each other, and our curiosity and eagerness to explore what it means to be human.
As I wandered through sand castles and a rainbow of knick-knacks and ordinary wonders in the Cultural Center’s art exhibit, I felt connected in my soul to this phenomenon we call humanity. We place so much importance on such trivial things – red wagons, toothpaste brands, how we spend our vacation time, where we get our quinceñara pictures taken – but they’re all important, aren’t they?
Things I know for sure:
- Shedd Aquarium serves pretty decent pizza.
- Half an hour of walking is still half an hour of walking.
- We can do this. We can. We will.