It wasn’t until the fourth time I asked someone “How are you doing?” on Thursday that I realized I already knew the answer.
On a typical day, the answer is always the same. If life is at least passable, we say “I’m good.” If life has kicked us hard where the sun doesn’t shine, “good” becomes “OK” or “alright.” But we never expand on our answers and often don’t tell the truth because we know that whoever is asking us isn’t really asking. And if they are, maybe we don’t want to really tell them how we’re doing.
But a day and a half after a Tuesday night that rocked the campus community to its core, a weight still hung in the air. The energy had been sucked out of the air, and those who were not too busy or defeated to join in the protests walked around in hordes of somber zombies. Everyone was I asked was “OK” or “alright.” No one was good.
When I woke up on Wednesday morning after the sick-to-my-stomach nightmare of the night before, I watched Hillary Clinton’s concession speech while I cried for the first time in those 12 hours of hell. I couldn’t help feeling like the world had failed me and had failed the strong, qualified, passionate woman behind that podium. And it had failed my friends — those of us who had politically engaged, who had done everything we were told we were supposed to and who were now scared of what was going to come. Our first experience voting in a presidential election had been followed by a slap to the pussy.
On Wednesday, the 78th anniversary of Kristallnacht, my Jewish heart dropped through the floor when I scrolled through my Twitter feed to see a swastika that had been spray-painted overnight on a boarded-up storefront window in Philadelphia. The protesters on campus Wednesday afternoon wore black to symbolize grief. We are not OK.
Once this realization sank in Thursday, when I asked people how they were, I really listened to hear the answer. And I noticed how many people around me were doing the same.
Because people wanted to share. People wanted to feel heard like many of them hadn’t been Tuesday. People wanted to know they were supported, to unpack complicated feelings and to heal. And so for once, their answers came to mean something more than pure cordialities.
The future is still uncertain and terrifying in many ways to those of us who did not choose this result, but I can’t recall ever feeling so connected to this campus community. In this haze of sadness and grief, there’s a new sense of camaraderie that has developed. We know we’re not OK, so we ask and actually mean it. We’re there for each other when it feels like our country might not do the same.
If something good can come of the disenfranchisement that many in the campus community feel, I hope it’s this: I hope the empathy and compassion that have unfolded through everything persist through these next four years. I hope that we continue to fight for each other and lift each other up when that seems like all we can do.
We are not OK, but with each other and with time, we will be.
Contact Kelsi Krandel at [email protected]