I love roller coasters. I love the way my body jumps into panic mode, my heart racing and adrenaline pumping just before the big drop comes. On January 20, 2017, I learned that something similar happens when I am on an airplane: the adrenaline pulsates through my veins as the plane speeds down the runway. That's the day I stepped into my local airport and geared up to fly by myself for the first time, to California from Lockport, New York, for the San Diego State University Writer's Conference.
When it was time to board, I hugged and kissed my mother goodbye with a promise to see her three nights later when I would arrive home. I took a deep breath and sighed in relief as I stepped on the plane and saw that there were no in-flight televisions. As a journalist, it is my job to stay informed, but as a black disabled woman, I needed a reprieve from the nearly 24-hour news coverage of the inauguration; I needed to believe, if only for a moment, that this was not happening.
Being black in America is often exhausting already –– we have to worry about being stopped and frisked, about being killed by police with no consequences –– and couple that with being a person with a disability who is pitied and invisible at the same time. The coverage of the inauguration felt like another celebration of our mistreatment, as the president has insinuated that black people are living in hell, and has promised to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which affects millions of disabled people.
My reprieve ended as soon as I landed in Chicago for my layover and connecting flight. First, the plane dropped its passengers off on the far side of the airport, leaving me to trek across massive O'Hare to find my new gate. My right leg from hip to ankle was already aching from sitting so long, and it only got worse as I walked. I passed an airport employee who was driving a cart, but he refused to stop because he wasn't "going my way."
Even worse, there were TVs everywhere playing the full inauguration coverage, and it was only 8 a.m. "What will he say?" "What will he wear?" Waiting for him to arrive became like watching a bizarre royal wedding, each journalist more excited than the last, and all I kept thinking is, None of this is normal, and none of this is OK.
On my flight from Chicago to San Diego, I sat next to a man who was watching the inauguration. Without meaning to, I caught a glimpse of the man who spent his entire campaign and the months that followed offending and threatening anyone who didn't look like him, agree with him, or share his sexual orientation or physical ability. After rolling my eyes and turning up my iPod as high as it would go, I decided that I was going to resist for the next four years in any way that I knew how.
First, I was going to find joy on this trip wherever I could, whenever I could. There was no use in spending the trip of a lifetime being scared, anxious, and closing in on myself.
I kept that first promise: I found joy in attending sessions that featured tips on how to turn your book into a screenplay, a talk with New York Times best-selling author Marjorie Hart, a wine-and-cheese night, a few wonderful but terribly acted Lifetime movies, lunch with my best friend, In-N-Out, my first Uber ride, and Game Night in a Can. I met people who wrote or were writing the books I couldn't wait to read, people who were resisting in their own way by putting the art out into the world that they wanted to see.