Self and the City is a column intended to increase visibility and dialogue surrounding mental health, relationships, harmful stereotypes, and the necessity for self-care and vulnerability. Self and the City will be headlined by Jessa Chargois on a bi-weekly basis. Submissions and guest columnists are welcomed to send work to firstname.lastname@example.org.
I believe this weekend served as a long overdue cause for celebration, for a deep breath, for hope. I believe we have a long way to go, yet, I believe this is the first step towards love, towards respect, towards unity. So, where were you when you heard?
Standing in line with my best friend and my new puppy (yes, I caved and rescued a quarantine puppy) in the late autumn sun deep in the heart of the Hudson Valley, we stood six feet apart from fellow diners anxiously awaiting to order. Speaking with those around us, my best friend and I discussed my dog’s breed, the beautiful weather, and the best breakfast items to order on the well-renowned Phoenicia Diner menu. Next in line to order, I leaned on my best friend, admitting how lovely it was to be with her after months of being separated due to the pandemic. After she moved to Philadelphia from New York City roughly a year ago, we have admittingly seen one another in person far less than either of us would prefer. With the recent demonstrations and violence seen throughout our nation’s largest cities, she decided to come up to the Hudson Valley for the weekend following Election Day.
Suddenly, claps and cheers erupted throughout the outdoor dining section of the diner. Confused, many of us started to look around, intuitively searching for a proposal, a public spectacle often causing a similar reaction. Much of the Hudson Valley is plagued with poor cell reception, and the outdoor picnic section of the Phoenicia Diner is no different. Those on the diner’s WIFI received the long-awaited notification from media outlets stating a President-Elect had be finally chosen. Screams of “BIDEN WON” echoed throughout the parking lots, with cars honking their horns speeding by, the staff of the diner cheering over a loudspeaker, and random strangers screaming together. Like many of us, a wave of overwhelming relief washed over me, tears welling in my eyes. Jubilant smiles and laughter washed over the diners, the pandemic the only thing keeping strangers from hugging in disbelief. While my first thought was the nightmare is over, it is essential to remember that there is so much work to be done.
However, Saturday was not the day for that thought. Recognize the change, yet, embrace the celebration. Once I was back in service, my iPhone rang off the hook. My friends in New York City took to the streets to celebrate the dawn of a new political day. While initially, pangs of FOMO struck me, I quickly realized this is what cities across the nation needed; a celebration for those who stayed despite the pandemic’s repercussions, despite the rumors of “ghost towns”, despite the polite family suggestions to think about moving home. This celebration filled with strangers, instruments, champagne, music, dancing, political flags, and smiles was for those who stayed loyal to their cities. Echoing the claps once shared daily at 7 PM in honor of our essential workers, the celebratory screams and cries brought out the very best of New York City this weekend. My heart burst of pride as the city that never sleeps showed it’s very best.
For those of you taking the time to critique the President-Elect and Vice President-Elect, remember, we hear you and we see you, but this weekend wasn’t the time. If you felt both sides of the ticket were equally as problematic, I beg for you to check your privilege. I beg for you to look into the eyes of those celebrating in our streets and ask them if they feel the same way. I beg for you to look into the eyes of those of us who feared for our rights, our lives, and our families. I beg for you to let us celebrate. I beg for you to hold us accountable to demand the change and reform necessary when the time is correct. There is much work to be done in regard to the global pandemic, our climate, systemic racism, our economy, healthcare, and so on. I beg for you to let us breath in a deep sigh of relief. It is time to come together, to hear one another, and to emphasize with your neighbors.
Chances are, many of us will always remember where we were when we found out who won the 2020 Election. When I reminisce on my first deep breath of this turbulent and unpredictable year, I will recall the warm embrace of my best friend, the smiles of strangers enjoying the Phoenicia Diner pancakes, and the overjoyed screams filled with sweet relief. So, where were you when you heard and where will you be when we demand change?