This time last year, I imagined I'd be wrapping up my nearly year-long trip across the country right about now. I daydreamed about how incredible it would feel to be able to say I'd not only visited every state of my entire beautiful country, but that I'd been able to sit down and talk to my fellow Americans one on one, face to face, that I'd been able to experience different cultures and environments, that I'd confronted some of my own prejudices and preconceived notions about the people and places that make up the tapestry of our nation. I assumed that by this time, I would be thinking about how to tie up my travels and my filming, about how to wrap everything up into an inspirational, eye-opening film for all of you to see. Nothing could have prepared me for the reality that is September 2020.
If you'd told me a year ago that by this point in time I would have parted ways with my partner, that he'd soon be diagnosed with cancer and pass away, I wouldn't have believed you. If you'd told me that I'd have to stop my project only two months in because of a global pandemic that would claim the lives of over 200,000 Americans (not to mention infect nearly 7 million of us, in our country alone), I'd have rolled my eyes and called you a conspiracy theorist. If you had told me that we would experience even HALF of the things we've experienced since January 1, I would have thought you crazy. But here we are.
It's finally September. Can you wrap your head around what we have endured this year?
I know that the universe doesn't care about "The New Year" or "January 1", and that it's completely a human construct that life restarts anew each time the calendar changes, but especially in years like this, it feels like the year just had it out for us, no? I keep praying that when midnight strikes on December 31, 2020 and we're unceremoniously thrust into 2021, that things will be different. I keep praying for things to change.
...for things to change...
How many of us feel that way? How many of us wait on the universe, or God, or whomever it is that you believe dictates your fate, to "fix" things? I know I do, all the time, even though I know very well that the God I believe in doesn't just give us things for free- we have to put in the work on our end, too. And that's why I am writing today.
When I set out in doing this project, my main objective was to bring about change in America. I wanted to create something honest and hopeful and unbiased, to show that we can all (seriously ALL) work together to improve our nation. All year I've struggled with having to postpone my project because I know how impactful it could have been to get it produced before the election. I wanted to be a catalyst for change. I wanted to put in the work. But it just wasn't in the cards. While I'm not giving up on the project, I want to implore you to consider another crucial way in which you can make things change.
Voting is an essential piece of a functioning democracy. Making your voice heard and selecting representatives that you believe will have your best interests at heart is how we can move forward as a nation. I'm not going to pretend that our nation is perfect or that the election system is without flaw, because there are many (MANY) ways in which our nation is broken, and our elections/political system are one of them. But the best way to fix that is to exercise your rights, stand up for the things that are important to you, elect officials who can most affect change, and hold them and the system accountable.
The next few weeks will be full of deadlines for you to register to vote or change your registration information. There will be political debates and ads and articles that bombard us every waking moment (and most of the ones when we're sleeping, too). It's essential that we take the time to do our due diligence and learn everything we can about our candidates at every level- state and local elections impact our daily lives most of all, and our federal elections this year are incredibly important as well. Do your homework. Use unbiased, fact-based research when you look at the candidates. It seems daunting but it is as simple as a google search. Be prepared by knowing the issues, what candidates best represent the things important to you, and know all of your relevant dates/places for voting.
Now more than ever, we need to band together, VOTE, and enact change to truly bring America back together, to be the country that I know we can be. It's time to put in the work.
*Cover image is from Rock the Vote, who we were proud to partner with for our project. Please visit rockthevote.org for information about voting in your area.