Friday afternoon, three of my best friends and I piled into our car to drive from New York City to Washington D.C. for the Women's March. We talked excitedly about the march route, the performers who were slated to appear, and the possibility of sighting celebrities in the crowd. In the morning, we woke up extra early to ensure good spots near the stage and pushed our way through the crowd to get the best view.
But everything from there didn't go quite as planned. About 20 minutes into the rally, the audio equipment almost entirely stopped working and I wasn't able to hear anything from the stage for the next four hours. The crowd chanted "turn it up" and "we can't hear" countless times throughout the morning, but the organizers were never fully able to restore the audio.
Immediately, I was furious, thinking, "I came all this way for this?" But the quiet did actually make me think about why I came. I live in New York City, where organizers held an amazingly successful satellite march — if my true intention was to march in solidarity, I could have done it a lot closer to home. Had I really come all this way for the celebrities? Was I really going to let myself by disappointed by this experience?
Though I had forgotten to arrive at the march with the right mindset, I knew I had come with the right intentions. In the unexpected calm, I took a step back from the giddy excitement of the march to remember its deeper significance, and it made a world of difference in how I experienced the rest of the day. I was able to recognize and mitigate my frustration at not being able to fully engage with the event. I was emboldened to lead chants and talk to strangers about their activist experiences. I took time to admire the incredible creativity and diversity of the women and men around me. I remembered that I wasn't there for the few women and men on stage, but with the hundreds of thousands who surrounded me and the millions more across the globe. I can't say for sure that I wouldn't have reached that introspective place if the speakers had worked properly, but I'm certainly grateful for every second of my march experience.
The march wasn't just a free concert to celebrate womanhood — in happier times, it would have been, but the stakes in this fight are too important to ever forget exactly why these protests are happening right now. Thinking that the march is about the event itself is a quick way to make sure your activism ends when you leave. Confronting that fact within myself was the best lesson I could have possibly gotten from the experience. The march wasn't my destination, but the very beginning of a journey that will likely last the rest of my life.
Images: Cate Carrejo