I write this as I fly far above Los Angeles, watching the city's lights slide further and further away—like a blanket being pulled from under my feet—until all I see out of my tiny window is darkness. It feels appropriate—watching the City of Angels slip from beneath the plane as we coast inland toward a blanket of black, save for tiny lights here and there that pepper the way, adding perspective to the scene, reminding me that I'm not, after all, floating in an abyss. I feel the most confusing cocktail of ominous and hopeful and overwhelmed and underwhelmed. I flew into L.A. from Las Vegas with my mother last night and—together with friends, family and 750,000 strangers—we peacefully protested racism, sexism, homophobia and anti-science agendas as part of the Women's March.
I wasn't prepared for the beauty of the day—a bright and sunny day in a city that saw downpours just hours prior and is expected to see them again tomorrow. I wasn't prepared for the overwhelming sense of community and sisterhood I'd feel amongst hundreds of thousands of women whose names I will never know. I wasn't prepared for the support I'd feel from men who marched alongside us, one turning to his two young daughters at one point and saying to them in the most endearing manner, "Get used to this, girls. This is every Saturday of our lives for the next four years." I wasn’t prepared for the pure and undeniable love I’d feel as males all throughout the day—ranging from a TSA agent at the airport to a bellman at our hotel—stopped my mom and me to thank us for marching on behalf of their wives and daughters.
I wasn't prepared for the belly-laughs I'd break into from signs that read things like, "Trump can't divide us. He's bad at math," and, "You're not PUTIN a hand on my pussy." And I wasn't prepared for the power I'd feel from others that read things like, "snowflakes make avalanches," or, "love is love is love." I wasn't prepared for the tears that would well up in my eyes as the crowd sang the National Anthem or as I made my way to higher ground and finally laid eyes upon the swarm of people I was a part of—a swarm that stretched as far as the eye could see and made for the largest crowd I'd ever seen in person.
What I also wasn't prepared for, however, was the sheer sense of sadness that would hit as I sit on this Boeing 777 right now, heading back home to—what?—shower and unpack and sleep sound under a soft duvet while young women all across this country wonder why they have to ask, again and again and again, for the same things their brothers are automatically handed? Provided their brothers are, of course, white and straight and possess all of the other attributes this country deems worthy.
I wasn't prepared for the tears that stream down my face now as I write this—tears that feel so starkly different from, and so much more permanent than, the hopeful-but-fleeting ones that found me earlier during the march.
What I wasn't prepared for was to feel so...unprepared.
Unprepared for what comes next, for the next step in this confusing, contradictory narrative that envelops our country. One that tells us that patriotism is great, as long as it looks more like America-branded beer than a uterus-shaped balloon floating far above a peaceful protest. One that tells our children not to demean and demand, but that also tells them they may be elected President if they do so. One that tells us not to litter or pollute our Earth…unless you're a corporate giant doing so in the name of creating a few thousand jobs.
As I finish writing this, though, lights creep back beneath my line of sight—Las Vegas welcomes me in a great and awesome expanse that unfolds in the form of little lit boxes making up giant bright blocks against the black. I look through my window at roads like rivers and buildings like Tetris blocks and am reminded that, from up here—from this 30,000-foot view—it all seems so simple. As if I could scoop up hundreds of thousands of women with my two hands and place them decades down a timeline, where we no longer have to ask for respect, the right to choose, and the right to govern our own bodies. As if I could squeeze the tiny rotting trees beneath me to a crispy "pop" between my forefinger and thumb, and replace them with things green and hopeful. As if everything is really as tiny, malleable and easy to see as it is from up here, in this plane full of men and women and babies who read and write and cry and eat peanuts and lay their heads on the shoulders of loved ones who sit in scratchy seats next to them.
But, while I wish I could live life from high above the ground like this, I know this moment will end. I know that life occurs from the ground up, not the other way around. That the picture we want to see must be painted a single pixel at a time, not in a broad sweeping brushstroke. That the peace we're seeking requires our feet on the ground, not up in the clouds. That, in order to cleanse, we must first get our hands dirty. I am ready to do so.
I am honored by the beauty of today, but ready for the grit of tomorrow.
I brace myself as we land and am reminded that, as much as I love the feel of coasting weightlessly high above brown earth, there is nothing quite like the connection offered by wheels touching down choppy on black asphalt.
Because in order to fly, we must first walk.