Well, America, it’s over.

This trash fire that we’ve called an election year has ended. We have a new president all lined up for inauguration on January 20. We also have two very different sides bitterly struggling against each other in the aftermath of one of the most eventful and closest elections ever.

I’d like to say that this election did not phase me at all; that I was emotional at first but then resumed my daily life with little fuss and completely unchanged relationships. But to say that would be a lie, because I was affected. I think almost everybody was in some way.

On November 9, I felt… strange. Suddenly everywhere I looked I was assessing people – their views, who they voted for, whether they watched the results being called with excitement or foreboding. During swim practice, I found myself swimming next to someone who I knew had views drastically different from mine. And it was awkward.

She tried to make conversation with me, and I was suddenly confused. This girl was my friend. She had been my friend for years. Could we not be friends anymore? I didn’t like her views – did that mean I didn’t like her? I laughed awkwardly and immediately started talking to someone else.

How ironic that GrrlPunch’s theme was love, just as I was forgetting how to love. Just as the whole country was forgetting how to love.

I understand that it feels like America will never be the same, that our lives have been drastically changed forever. And yes, things will be different. But on November 9, I woke up in the same bed where I had gone to sleep on November 8. I went to the same school. I saw the same people. I took the same classes, I drove the same car, I swam in the same pool, and I took the same route home that I have taken for years.

A president is important to this country, but a president is not this country. America is not defined by its president, because one president cannot effectively represent all the people – that’s why no one has ever been unanimously elected (except for maybe George Washington, who ran unopposed when America was a confused baby). America is defined by its people. No matter what side you’re on or who you voted for, you cannot forget how to love America and all the people in it.

There will always be disagreements. This country houses hundreds of millions of people – there will be hundreds of millions of disagreements. But we have to separate our views from our love for each other.

America cannot be destroyed by one man. But America can be destroyed if the hate that has so impressively featured over the past year prevails. If we cannot love each other, if we begin to call our friends our enemies because of our differing ideas, then America will crumble apart at the seams. That, we cannot blame on our president. That, we can only blame on ourselves.

So don’t alienate someone because she thinks differently. Don’t determine someone’s worthiness by her opinions. People will always have different opinions. The first step to recovering from the hate that swept in with this election is learning how to look at someone different from you, accept those differences, and love anyway. When we can all do that, I will be more than proud to call America my home, no matter who the president is.

Remember: love always, always trumps hate.