What could have been means so much.
After Hillary Clinton recently published “What Happened,” her book chronicling her point of view through the hell-scape that was the 2016 election, the New Yorker posted the cover they would have run if the election ended up with her in the Oval Office.
And I was wrecked. I couldn’t stop looking at it, studying it, and even tried to make it my wallpaper (FYI iPhone users: the “New Yorker” covers up the date and time.) There’s nothing outright or loudly celebratory about the design. The color scheme is dark, the lines are simple, the character vaguely looks like simplistic cartoon of Clinton. There’s nothing immediately remarkable about the cover in any other time. But this isn’t any other time.
Imagine how it would have felt seeing this cover in November. After the what felt like the longest and most infuriating presidential election ever, we could all take deep breaths (not victory laps) and feel secure that it was finally over. We had survived, and an able, well experienced captain was guiding the ship. We would have seen this cover on newsstands and Facebook, and remembered that this was the start of history. A woman president. Would you look at that.
What got to me the most about the cover, and still gets me every time I see it, is the way she’s standing. Calmly, at night, in the Oval Office, looking out at the moon. It makes me want to take a breath out, drop my shoulders, and reflect back on how I got here. The journey through the inferno, the arrival at the destination, and the anticipation for what’s to come.
I know that feeling. It’s finally — finally — feeling that everything you’ve worked for has been worth it. It’s seeing that A on the project you spent weeks working on. It’s that paycheck in your bank account. It’s that one person’s eyes lighting up when they see what you’ve created and it resonates with them. It’s when you can look around, take a deep breath, and say, “Yeah. I did it.
But that is not what happened.
Not anything like it in the least. Instead I spent the night of November 8 panicking, watching the numbers come in on west coast time, and then curling up in my bed later that night. I woke up the next morning and immediately wished I hadn’t. There was no relief, or deep breaths, or security. Just sadness and fear.
Eventually, like everyone else, I got out of bed. I used my meager little platform to write how I was feeling, and began getting ready for all that’s to come. And on newsstands I saw the New Yorker getting covered by a brick wall.
What could have been is tough to think about. There’s never a winner in the “what if” game, so I try not to play. But when I saw the New Yorker of What Could Have Been, I had to stop and stare. Because I couldn’t stop thinking about what it would have meant to see that cover everywhere. Couldn’t stop thinking about how hard she worked, and for so long. Couldn’t stop thinking about where we are now. Staring at a brick wall instead of the moon.