Every day since November 8, 2016, my fear has consumed me. I’ve gone from being an extroverted introvert who loved living by myself and working from home to someone who rarely wants to be alone. I was once an active Facebook user and media consumer. Now I only look at Instagram. I’m a voracious reader who can now only handle listening to audiobooks of young adult romance novels I’ve already read.
Sometimes it is the possibility of the big, catastrophic things that stoke my fear: nuclear war, the end of democracy in the United States, a country without any social safety net, the destruction of our economy, a government that actively victimizes people of color. But the little things also worm their way into my brain as signs of a new dystopian reality: a president who blatantly lies, censors federal agencies and doesn’t believe in the only accountability measure we might have left—public opinion.
Despite the fear consuming me and leaving me often balled up on my couch, I wasn’t planning to go to the Women’s March on Washington. I didn’t feel like it really targeted me and my community of queer people of color who are already politically engaged. A conversation with my mother made me change my mind. “Maybe you should march,” she said with a concerned tone as I told her that I felt like the world was coming to an end. “It might make you feel better.” It was somewhat surprising advice from a woman who never took me to rallies or protests growing up. “OK,” I told her. “I will.”
On Saturday I had trouble getting up and dressed, but I forced myself to follow the plan I’d made with nearly 20 friends to meet downtown for the march. On the way, I was amazed by the sight of metro cars full of people in pink knit hats. As the day continued, I was in awe of the crowd. It was so packed that my group wasn’t able to get close enough to hear or even see the stage.
So the march became a day of hanging out with my friends—and hundreds of thousands of other people—on the National Mall full of the detritus from Trump’s inauguration the day before. Some were scared like I was, some wanted to use humor and ridicule to get through and some held messages of solidarity and resistance and hope.
I wish I could say that knowing that close to 3 million people took to the streets around the world Saturday in a historic showing of resistance took away my despair. It didn’t. That night I still needed to say the prayer my abuela gave me as a child to drown out the half-awake, catastrophic thoughts: “Angel de la guarda, dulce compañia, no me desampares, ni de noche, ni de dia.” (“Guardian angel, sweet company, don’t forsake me, not at night nor during the day.”) I’m not particularly religious, but I’ve been seeking—seeking anything to give me the strength to continue each day.
What I can say, though, is that my anxiety is a little bit quieter because of my community. They are the people I spent the day after the Orlando massacre with. They are the people who gathered in my home the night after the election and who decided that we would start doing weekly family dinners together. And they are the people, a group 18 strong with friends and visitors joining in, who traversed the wildness of a march attended by more than twice the expected crowd.
One of my friend’s signs became our touchstone—it read “We are a lighthouse,” inspired by an Elisa Chavez poem called “Revenge.” We constantly kept the sign in our sight and started using the lighthouse as our group name. “Lighthouse, right!” we’d yell to keep us all together. “Lighthouse here!”
I’m only 32. I didn’t really come into political consciousness until the last big march I attended, the March for Women’s Lives in 2004, and didn’t become fully engaged until Obama’s 2008 election. This means I don’t actually know what it’s like to live under an overtly hostile government. That not knowing is my biggest challenge. But there is one thing I do know: My people are my lighthouse. If we make it through, it will be because we hold each other up, recreate the support systems that our government will dismantle, and organize to keep each other safe—just like we did in the crowd of hundreds of thousands of people in the streets of D.C.