Standing in that crowd of women was like standing in the ocean: Powerful, yet supportive; passionate, yet calm.
Robin Young Burinskiy, I’m a writer, editor & photographer in Boston. Find inspiration on Feather & Flint, my lifestyle blog in support of storytelling, vulnerability & fulfillment.
On Wednesday night, I texted three friends: “You’re going to a march on Saturday, right? Are you feeling anxious? How are you dealing with that?”
I was sitting on my kitchen floor with a cup of chamomile tea, holding back tears and taking deep breaths. My screen lit up with incoming messages.
“I know exactly how you feel,” one message read. “I tell myself that there are always safe places I can go to get away from the crowds, and that I’ll be with people, and that I won’t want to have missed out on what is our generation’s March on Washington. But I’m solidly 50/50 right now. I’m worried my friends will be disappointed in me if I don’t go because I’m anxious.”
“I’m anxious as hell,” another said. “I think this is going to turn out to be one of the most important protests in a very long time. But also, it’s perfectly okay if you decide this isn’t the way you can express your solidarity. That being said, in all the protesting I’ve been around, I always look back and think, ‘Damn, what was I so worried about!’ at the end of it. From a human perspective, it’s really beautiful to witness the power, energy, and spirit that protesting generates.”
I wanted to go. I wanted to be surrounded by thousands of women who were just as furious and bewildered and terrified as I was about everything that had transpired in the 2016 election. I knew that the crowd would be made up of individual people who had each decided to show up, no matter how inconvenient or daunting it might seem.
But I was afraid. Along with thousands of other Bostonians, the footage of the 2013 Marathon bombing was indelibly burned into my memory. The concept of public gatherings had been sullied by a sense of imminent danger. As I tried to picture myself marching elbow-to-elbow with thousands of others, my chest grew tight, my heart began to race, my breathing became shallow, and my eyes filled with tears. I had been on the edge of a panic attack all day, and I wasn’t sure if I could move past it.
In most circumstances, my conscience would tell me to prioritize self-care over all other considerations. If it was causing me mental anguish, I wouldn’t be doing anyone any good by attending. But in this circumstance, I wondered, should my own comfort take precedence over the opportunity to be a part of something so much bigger than myself? And which would be worse — my anxiety over going, or my regret and shame over not going?
In talking to my friends — two of whom would be marching in Washington D.C., in spite of their anxiety — my resolve strengthened. I had been feeling helpless and dispirited since November — and here was a concrete way to translate those emotions into a meaningful message. Here was a chance to stand with countless others in the pursuit of positive, critical change. If I felt at all uncomfortable once I was actually there, I promised myself, I could leave–as long as I’d heard Elizabeth Warren speak first.
Why I Attended the Boston Women’s March
When I woke up on Friday — Inauguration Day — I knew that I’d made the right decision. I walked to work that morning with a defiant smirk that I couldn’t hide. Donald Trump could go ahead and take the oath of office — but come Saturday, we’d be out there on the streets of every state in the country, ready to show him exactly what he’d gotten himself into.
On Saturday, I laced up my sneakers and headed to the train. It was packed by the second stop. In other Boston suburbs, the trains grew so crowded that they couldn’t accommodate any more passengers. The energy continued to build as we neared the city and hundreds of women climbed aboard.
I would compare standing in a crowd of 175,000 women to standing in the ocean: Powerful, passionate, and omnipresent; yet deeply supportive, positive, and calm. It was breathtaking.
I marched because I wanted to be a part of history as it unfolded on a national scale. This country’s revolutionary spirit was born in Boston, and I can attest that it was alive and well on Saturday.
I marched because I have little to lose in comparison with many, many other people under the Trump administration. I’m a woman, and I’ve struggled with depression and anxiety from a very young age — but apart from that, I’ve had every privilege this world has to offer. Nothing is at risk for me when I speak up for our collective rights — so it’s my responsibility to do so.
I marched because I needed to translate my growing sense of fear and disgust into a physical action. It revived me to be surrounded by people experiencing the exact same emotions — and it fueled my determination to do something to change what’s happening in this country.
I marched because I believe in the equality and freedom of all human beings. I believe that all people should be empowered by their government to make their own decisions. I do not believe that we have the right to dictate the actions that another person should take, so long as they are not impeding another’s existence. If there’s anything that I can do today to hasten this reality across the country, that’s what I need to do.
Frankly, I marched because I’m tired of having conversations about how bewildered and furious and despondent we all feel. I’m tired of the sentiment of helplessness — my own and others’. I’m tired of ideologically opposing things without taking action to prevent them from being signed into law. I’m tired of not knowing what the path looks like between where we are and where we need to be as a society — and I’m tired of hoping that someone capable will figure it out soon.
I don’t know what my next step will be just yet. But I do know that the future is female. I also know that women hold themselves back by waiting until the conditions are perfect—until they’re perfect—to raise their hands.
We’re each endowed with unique talents and insights that allow us to contribute to the world in a way that literally no one else can. I, for one, pledge to use my gifts and my perspective to enact positive change for all of us. This begins now, with my choice to speak honestly about the most controversial issue of our time, because I simply refuse to stay quiet when millions of lives are hanging in the balance.
I pledge to continue to use my voice to bring attention to the things that truly matter in life. I pledge to approach every opportunity to make a difference with empathy, intelligence, candor, and unwavering determination. I pledge to not just ensure that I’m on the right side of history, but to change the course of history in any way that I can.
Who’s with me? Share this post on social media, then tell me your story in the comments. I’d love to hear why you marched and how you plan to forge ahead in the coming months. I’ll be right there with you.
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“People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.”
- MARCUS AURELIUS