Finding My Voice in the Perfect Storm

By Lisa Handback

It’s been one year. 365 days. 8,760 hours. 525,600 minutes. And when I think back on this time last year, those visceral feelings come rushing right back as though it were yesterday… The panic. The disbelief. The anger. The sorrow. I got caught in a tailspin of emotions and was left feeling hopeless.

“Let us have faith in each other. Let us not grow weary. Let us not lose heart. For there are more seasons to come…and more work to do.” — Hillary R. Clinton

And then came the phone call from my grandmother — words which I will carry with me for the rest of my life: “Honey, I know you’re sad. We all are. But you’re only allowed to be sad for so long…then you have to do something. So what are you going to do?” I knew she was right…but I didn’t have an answer. I had just turned 30 years old, and I had never been politically active in my life, nor did I know anyone who was. So I made the typical Millennial move — #GoogleIt — and there it was: Madison County Democratic Women. And that’s where it all began…

Before I knew it, I was being embraced by this force and found myself saying “Yes!” to everything. I was busy — I joined several organizations and multiple committees. I was meeting people — I met so many people from different backgrounds and generations and walks of life that I probably never would have otherwise met. I was doing things I had never fathomed I would do — I marched. I protested. I put signs in my yard and magnets on my car and dedicated a portion of my closet to statement tees. I was feeling that force become a part of me…or was I becoming a part of it?

As I reflect back on this past year, it was most certainly a whirlwind. It was at times frustrating and stressful and even down-right maddening. But there were many more moments that were educational and inspiring and, honestly, just a whole lot of fun. I learned so much about the world and myself this year…from complacency and advocacy to apathy and empathy. I got to hear from people I greatly admire and even meet some of them. And I have formed some of the greatest friendships that I know I will cherish all the days of my life.

And in that reflection, I can’t help but to think about all the things that had to happen to get me to where I am today…to this very moment — from moving back home to work flexibility to the (hellacious) election to joining the right group with the right people at the right time. You see, I had always had thoughts and opinions and ideas about the world and politics — but it wasn’t until this perfect storm that I truly found my voice to put thoughts to words, and in turn, those words to action…

And I am then left wondering: “Is this a new version of myself that I have become?” or “Has this always been apart of me that I’ve just been too afraid to embrace?” Perhaps it’s a little bit of both, but then I suppose that doesn’t really matter. What I do know and what does matter is that those feelings I was so deeply consumed by this time last year have been replaced with: panic Calmdisbelief Beliefanger Passionsorrow Joy. Whether it was there all along or a recent discovery, I am better now than I was then. I still have so much more to learn and to do, but I am hopeful for the future and excited for this new season of my life.

And I would encourage anyone reading this to not wait for some catastrophic occurrence to start caring or speaking out or doing something to better the world around you, but if it does — always keep yours eyes, ears, heart, and mind open. Because who knows…you may one day find yourself caught up in your own perfect storm, and you don’t want to miss your shot to find the voice you never knew you had. Now that I have found my voice, I don’t plan on being quiet anytime soon…or throwing away my shot…

“…I’m past patiently waitin’. I’m passionately smashin’ every expectation, Every action’s an act of creation! I’m laughin’ in the face of casualties and sorrow. For the first time, I’m thinkin’ past tomorrow. And I am not throwin’ away my shot…” — Hamilton: An American Musical