In January 2016, I joined my mom, cousins, and a couple of friends to do a march. I had never done this marching thing before, and I had little understanding of why I was marching at all. I knew we were mad at the sudden sanction of misogynistic, racist, hypocritical, and altogether hurtful rhetoric. We felt betrayed by "democracy"—the word we all so proudly promote across dinner table discussions. And most of all we felt fear for the unknown. I remember weighing just how fast hard-fought equalities could diminish in four years. Yet, how could marching solve such things? I understood it only as a source of solace for the whopping crowds of like-minded progressives, Trump haters, marginalized peoples, and simply concerned individuals like myself—a safe place to remind ourselves that other people are unhappy, too.
Then we arrived, and my unhappy-yet-complacent state of mind was consumed, convulsed, and spit out by a massive snowstorm of angry chants, pussy-hats, inspiring stories, and heartfelt speeches. The unhappiness was shaken out of me, and with it the complacency; I was left with a weird sort of excitement, the sort of excitement I imagine you'd feel once being spit out of a snowstorm and realizing how blessed you are to be alive. That feeling was accompanied by the somewhat frightening realization that you should probably do something extraordinarily meaningful with your life. Thus, I decided to be complacent no more.
But then I returned home and awoke the next day to the same country, the same demeaning rhetoric, and the same subconscious fear that I might have to look into colleges in Canada. I remembered that marching through the streets, however internally life-changing it may be, rarely achieves tangible progress (or at least progress in the sense that I understood it), and it felt like waking up to a puddle of cold drool. How was I supposed to be non-complacent if the structure of government, society, and my age required me to be complacent?
Three years later, though, I still grapple with this question on a daily basis. I do believe there are very tangible things that happen when you march.
For one, when I march I feel connected with the community, and I learn from fellow marchers. I am reminded that everyone has their own reason for marching—everyone has their own story. Therefore we are not reinforcing one another's beliefs, but rather by learning each other's stories, we can better understand and make informed decisions. Secondly, when I march I can make myself known and share my own story. I can empower myself by contributing to something larger, and I can assert my 17-year-old perspective into the world of important adult decisions. When I march I am not hiding behind the internet or some angry blog, but step by step, I am showing the world that I care. Lastly, when I march, I am reminded that I have power, and when I am consumed by a mass of marchers, I am reminded by the words of Women's March SLO founder Dawn Addis, that "no one has more power than me."