I was asked to write something to mark the day—something to encourage a re-set as we turn the proverbial page on a difficult and divisive chapter in American history. But the truth is that I don’t know with certainty what this day will bring. I’m not writing this piece on January 20th, and at this point several outcomes seem possible, ranging from peaceful ideal to horrific.
What can be said of such a day, when so many different outcomes are imaginable?
It struck me that we give our protagonist a moment like this toward the end of a story—following a dark moment, there is resolution or there is an even darker moment.
It struck me that no matter what our protagonist experiences, there is an after, whether it’s happily-ever or not.
It struck me that we are—collectively—the protagonist of this moment in history.
Some believe something will end today. Period. But I think it’s safer to say something will change today; it will shift, marking the start of a new phase or chapter [semi-colon].
The semi-colon is a powerful marker of connection. Two ideas are so intrinsically bound that to exist as sentences beside one another without the marker is to weaken the idea. Whatever comes next, whatever happens today, it will be the cause of an effect we won’t know for a while. But make no mistake that our future—at least our most immediate future—will be tied to our now in a way we won’t be able to shake.
This is a semi-colon moment.
What do we do with the rubble of our time? How do we rebuild? What can be salvaged? What do we take from this moment and pull into our future? What’s on the other side of that semi-colon? What do we want to be on the other side of that semi-colon? To undo it all, to go back to “normal”? How wide is that gap, between reality and some impossible dream?
What can we control? Where is our personal power? How can we navigate the noise to remember our singular selves—our hopes and aspirations—and set ourselves back on the road to home? Are we prepared to find that the ground has shifted while we were away, that our homes are not where we left them, that the things inside are not as we remember them, that some things have broken while others have disappeared altogether?
We will, on the other side of this, be called to stitch together a new sense of safety—a proverbial net we can rely on, that will be there for us if we need to fall. We can’t find the needles, the thread. We’ll have to improvise. We may learn that this new net, though, is stronger than anything that has come before–a strange net made out of desperate materials, flecked with our own blood, perhaps, as we crafted it with some brave-new-world instrument that was imperfect, that we’d never used before because we’d never had a need.
There may be grief for the old world—the world on the left side of the semi-colon—but make no mistake that the new world cannot live in that same space. The world on the new side of that semi-colon is waiting for us, and its message remains hidden for now. It needs our voices, and our actions, and perhaps most of all our acknowledgement that it too can be powerful and promising and a gift of the rubble.
It is for us to write it.
So no matter how you feel today, no matter what happens, be the semi-colon. We will forever remember this time in history as a marker—that can never be in doubt—but it’s also an opportunity. The future is ours to make;
What’s on the other side of your semi-colon, and how much of that do you hope involves your writing? How will that writing relate to this semi-colon moment in time?