I have never witnessed anything quite like the election season of 2016. Maybe it was because it was the first presidential election that I cared to follow, or maybe the emotions that fueled the course of both major candidates’ campaigns really felt like something new. For the first time in my life, people that I loved felt personally victimized and wounded by the rhetoric of a political leader in our own country.

Being a part of higher education in psychology has landed me in a culture of empathy: A culture that emphasizes the underserved and works to give a voice to the voiceless. And while the culture felt like a strong, positive presence within the walls of my program’s building and in the lives of many others, I have found that it has shaped my political beliefs and priorities. I felt the results of the election strongly, as did most of my peers. I heard the hopelessness in my friends voices as they searched for some positivity. I heard the desperation as people tried to find a solution and how to move forward.

After a lot of thought, I’ve come to this place:

Donald Trump won the presidency. And Donald Trump didn’t just win a little, he won by a lot. While these words feel bitter to many people like me, who have saturated their lives with messages of equality and improved treatment for all individuals, it is still the reality. This election season has many of us still reeling, but now it is time for those of us who identify as professionals in counseling or mental health domains to wake up.

If we cannot accept the opinion and values of an entire nation, how can we accept the values of our clients?

If we cannot make an attempt to understand the other side, how can we preach equality? How could we ever ask anyone to do the same?

The definition of resiliency varies, but its generally known as, “the capacity to recover quickly from adversity”. Perhaps this election is an opportunity for us. An opportunity to display our resiliency. An opportunity to model the behavior of someone that is stronger than the political system of their country. This provides us an opportunity to actually stop and listen to opinions that differ from our own (but don’t differ from most of the country’s). This provides us an opportunity to stand up taller and fight harder for the social movements we believe in.

Regardless of the perspective you want to take, the bright shining light in this darkness is opportunity. So let’s stand up tall and proud. Let’s practice what we preach and show our resiliency. Let’s suit up in our armor of knowledge and empathy and understanding, and go out into a world that feels so very dark.

If there’s a time for us to make a difference, it is truly now.

– Katarina Miller –