November 9, 2016
Class of 2017
On November 9, 2016, I woke up and immediately started crying.
The night before, I waited with some fellow UCI Law students as the results trickled in. I sat on the floor of a classmate’s living room, sipping a whiskey to calm my nerves. I’ll spare you the agony of reliving the rest of this evening—we all know how it ends. After Ohio, we’d joked about recruiting for a real-life Dumbledore’s Army, about how the legalization of recreational marijuana in California would be necessary to get through the next four years. After North Carolina, I didn’t feel like joking anymore.
It’s impossible to put into words the way I felt the next morning. I’ve been heartbroken before. I’ve felt that rawness the day after a loss, where you wonder if it’s even possible that a time will come where you’re not alternating between grief and emptiness. This was different. In those instances, you know that break-ups, job losses, and even deaths are a normal part of the universal human experience. You know that millions of people are not going to be affected by your personal tragedy.
I remember the utter strangeness of walking to the coffee shop on the corner of my block, my eyes puffy and raw. I’d expected the patrons to reflect my own devastation back to me–at worst, I’d expected to see a few of them celebrating. Instead, I saw only people ordering their coffees and exchanging pleasantries as if it were just another Wednesday. There had been no seismic shift in the universe for many of these people, no terror that the rights and freedoms of their loved ones could be in jeopardy.
In thinking about what UCI Law means to me at the end of my law school career, I apologize for not picking a happier memory, but this one is so representative of my time here. I remember returning from the coffee shop to see responses pouring in on a group text message that had sprung up the night before Election Day. It was a mini UCI Law Pantsuit Nation, full of women sharing hopeful messages, pictures of themselves and other women adorned in HRC buttons and suffragette-inspired pantsuits, and anecdotes from their experiences serving as poll monitors. We mourned together over text as each of us watched Hillary’s concession speech and experienced the death of a dream that had filled us with magic the day before. I didn’t feel any better, but I did feel slightly less alone.
I remember deciding afterwards that I did not want to leave my house or talk to anyone. I e-mailed a professor that I knew well to inform her of my absence. I added a postscript asking for advice on channeling my grief into a productive outlet. This professor sent a beautiful reply expressing her solidarity and assuring me that there would be community organizing and resistance during the long fight ahead. I remember answering a call from a classmate, despite my unwillingness to talk to my own family or friends I’d known for a decade, and talking for over an hour about privilege, misogyny, and how this election cycle had impacted our community.
There were other conversations over the next few days, conversations that later turned into ideas and then into actions. There was the camaraderie of the Women’s March and the shared outrage over the travel ban. Students have attended environmental protests and hosted “call your representatives” nights on living room floors. They’ve assisted faculty and community groups with research in the hopes of preventing our new president from enacting any of his proposed policies. They’ve attended legislative hearings and provided pro bono assistance to immigrants who fear losing their status and being separated from their families. They’ve helped each other stay proactive and not drown themselves in grief.
I don’t think I think I’ve said anything unique here, and I think anyone reading this will recognize snippets of their own experiences. I’m willing to bet that there are very few UCI law students or alumni that did not communicate with anyone in our shared community on November 9, 2016. This is a community full of inspiring, brilliant people who support and care about one another. It’s a community that encourages its members to work towards the best versions of themselves, and understands that each person is working towards a different result. It’s a community that comes together and takes action when necessary, and one that I’ll always be proud to represent.