Confessions of a (former) passivist.

I didn’t realize right away that I was grieving. It took an article with a headline about post-election grief for me to recognize that ache in my heart, that cold pit of fear in my stomach, for what it actually was. It was reminiscent of an awful breakup, or the unexpected loss of a loved one. I am grieving, and I’m not alone. 

Even miles away on this southern continent, I felt the earth shift below me that morning after the election. Like everything I had known to be true in my life had suddenly evaporated without warning or explanation. And so I’m grieving. I’m grieving for what could have been. I’m grieving because this isn’t the country I thought I knew. I’m grieving because our collective innocence has been shattered. We can’t really go back to where we were. We thought we were moving forward, and instead we still have so far to go. 

I took my nation for granted. I realize that now. I grew up in a safe bubble with amazing hippie parents and never questioned the fact that everyone should be treated equally. It seemed human nature to me. How could anyone believe differently? And even though our tiny hometown had small-minded people, I always thought they were in the (very small) minority. I never could’ve conceived that almost half our nation felt this way. Disillusionment at its utmost. My eyes have been opened.

My ugly truth is that I’ve never been active (or even remotely interested) in politics. Whenever the topic would arise among friends, the discussion would become heated and someone would inevitably become pissed off. But nothing was ever really resolved during these conversations. Nobody was converted to the “other side”. It seemed useless to me, and a good way to create tension. I had resigned myself to the thought that people’s beliefs were their own, and they had formed their opinions long ago; it seemed an inane source for discussion. And so I’ve avoided anything to do with politics, to the best of my ability, throughout my adult life.

My oldest sister has always tried her very best to inspire me to become more involved. “Come caucus with me!” she’d try to convince me. “Why? I’ll vote for whoever they pick as our candidate,” I’d respond lazily.

A frequenter of the library, I’d get hit up several times a week for various causes. “Oh, I already signed that one,” I’d lie through my teeth. Why should I sign something I knew nothing about? I’d justify to myself.

When petitioners would knock on my door, I’d tell them to give me a website where I could read more information on the topic. “I don’t sign anything before reading about it,” I’d tell them. Of course, I never actually looked into the cause, and I’d throw the materials away as soon as they were gone. (Shameful? Yes. I realize that now, and am both embarrassed and disgusted to admit it.)

Marriage equality? Hell yes! I’m glad everyone can get married, it’s about damn time. Feminism? Count me in! A woman’s body is her own? Of course! I’d watch the world around me begin to evolve, and I was proud of the changes, but I had done nothing to further them. I took it for granted that people would always do what’s right.

When I saw innocent African Americans being gunned down by those who are meant to protect each and every one of us, I was appalled. Black Lives Matter. But I continued to watch it occur, time and time again, and I did nothing. I convinced myself I was powerless, but that was a lie. I was lazy. And I am ashamed to admit it.

I’m not on social media, so I can’t see the explosion of anger or hurt or fear that I’m sure has appeared on various platforms throughout the last week. But I can see the reactions around me. The local newspaper headlines, the clerk at the grocery store, the taxi driver, the young nephew at my current homestay. Everyone is curious about my feelings toward the results, and this time I’m not shying away. I’m freely expressing my opinions on the president-elect, and it does not seem un-American at all. If anything, it feels more patriotic to immediately renounce him. How the hell did we get here?

I realized today that I am no longer angry at these results. And I can forgive my neighbors who voted for someone else (I may never understand it, but I can forgive it). We are where we are because we still have some major work to do. When I look beyond the shame and the shock I can almost see a place where we emerge stronger; united. And for once, I’m not willing to sit aside and watch others do the heavy lifting for me. Neither will I watch this country turn into a nightmare for my niece and nephew, and anyone else who may come along. 

Something has changed within me. I can literally feel a strength beginning to emerge, a steely resolve ready to stand up for what I believe in. But it doesn’t stem from hatred or anger; more a fierce determination to fight for everything I took for granted. I no longer feel lost and stricken. It’s time to take back the power I so blindingly cast aside for years. I am a pacifist, but I refuse to be passive. I am finally ready.

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Things you don’t understand (but she will try to explain)

She loves to travel. It’s always been in her blood. Maybe she got it from her gypsy soul mama, or perhaps from her adventurous aunt. She’s always had a dreamer’s mind and one day realized she could put it into action, and has never really looked back. She follows the wind and the stars and lets her heart lead her toward the next adventure. And she has almost always traveled solo; she hasn’t really known another way. But lately something has been on her mind…differences in how you and she travel solo.

She loves her yoga pants. They are quite simply the best travel pants. They don’t drag or get caught, and are so comfy and lightweight. But when she travels, she never wants to wear them, even though nearly all the local women are dressed the same. Because for her, these pants inevitably cause unwanted attention. She ties jackets around her waist, even on the hottest days. It doesn’t help. Beeping, whistling, shouting, mumbling slang too quick to understand…she is not flattered. She is disgusted, and she hurries by. She silently turns to stone.

She gets her period the night before a big trek (yes, we just went there. It’s ok, you can deal with it. She does, every month). It puts a major damper on her plans. Her energy is low during the hike; she tires easily and has to take frequent rests. She is constantly worried about the location of the next bathroom, and how she’s going to take care of business out in nature. And if her clothes might get ruined, and how to cope without completely embarrassing herself out on a mountain trail or in a hostel room full of strangers.

She’s wearing shorts because it’s laundry day. She thought she’d go for a leisurely stroll while she waited for her clothes to finish drying. She smiles at an elderly man as she walks by. He grabs her hand and leers at her legs, laughing and gesturing. She hurries back to check on her laundry. She feels her walls grow stronger and higher. 

Her yoga class runs later than expected, and it is dark when she leaves. It’s in a rural location, several blocks away from town. She races back to civilization, her ears primed like a feline, listening for footsteps. She pulls her hood up over her hair, hoping someone will mistake her for you. At home she’d have keys placed between her knuckles, but here she has nothing. She curses herself for being so stupid, and swears never again to be out alone after dark.

She misses the bus for a day trip, and heads back to the hostel, bummed. You tell her to hitchhike instead. She shakes her head emphatically. No way. A new friend volunteers to come with. And so off they go, and they meet a handful of the friendliest locals. The end destination is filled with beautiful, breath-taking scenery. She and her temporary travel bud smile at each other with relief; they would’ve missed this. Neither one ever would’ve hitchhiked alone.

You relay your travel stories of sleeping in a hut on the beach, or in a cave, or a hammock, or under the stars. She listens with envy and agrees that it sounds amazing…all the while silently hoping she’ll meet a travel companion as she heads in that direction. Because that’s not something she could ever do alone. She’d be too exposed, an easy target. You look slightly confused when she echoes this sentiment, and tell her you never had to think about that before. She already knows. 

She loves meeting fellow travelers. That is why she’s staying primarily in hostels (although she sometimes feels about ten years too old to be doing so). When she first meets you, her new roommate, she is warm and friendly and welcoming. But, as night descends and she realizes it is just the two of you for the evening, she questions your character for just one irrational moment. And, although she feels guilty, she doesn’t wear earplugs that night. 

She books herself a single room, just to get a break from the dorms. But then she finds out the door doesn’t lock. And so she places little barricades and “booby traps” against the door so that she will be forewarned if anyone enters. She doesn’t get much sleep that night. When you hear about this later, you tell her she’s paranoid and maybe just a little crazy. 

She meets a nice local guy. He is sweet and funny and they hang out all day, hiking and laughing and sharing stories. But when he walks her home, he expects more. Hands are everywhere. She’s not amused, and tells him no. Luckily he listens, but she thinks she might not be so lucky next time. He apologizes the next day, but she never speaks to him again. She completely closes herself off. She is wary of meeting anyone new. 

Yes, there are things she knows she’s missing out on. But she trusts her gut and her intuition, and would never want to look back with regret on something she knew wasn’t safe. This doesn’t mean she will ever stop traveling solo (she won’t). She is not afraid. She is prepared. And she is always, always aware. But these things that she has to think about on a daily basis have probably never entered your mind.

Please don’t misunderstand. She doesn’t wish that she was you. She is proud to be herself. But sometimes she wonders, just for a minute, what it would be like. To travel solo as you do. Carefree? Worry free? She is sure there is another side to this, and would love to hear your story.

Maybe she won’t post this. She is a non-confrontational spirit, and hates to stir up any sort of sentiment that could be construed as controversy. But this post has been on her mind for several weeks now, and so she had to write it, just to get it out of her head and into written words. Maybe it will float around forever in the ether, never to be read by anyone but her. Maybe she will continue to hit “preview” again and again until it somehow encompasses all she wants to say. But she’s hoping, one day, she’ll find the courage to click “post”…so that you can finally begin to understand.