I arrived at the Javits Center last night, full of excitement and hope. One of my colleagues had VIP tickets and added me as her plus one. We picked up our blue ‘guest’ badges, pushed through the crowds outside, and were directed to a special line that landed us 30 feet from the podium where you would have given your acceptance speech.

We felt like the luckiest women alive.

As we took photos of ourselves in front of the stage, we thought we were about to witness a historic win for women. We looked up at the Javits’ glass ceiling and cheered that you would shatter that last, highest glass ceiling once and for all. We thought we were about to experience one of the greatest moments of our lives.

Instead, we experienced one of the saddest. I’m sure you did too.

I’ve been a loud, strong supporter of yours since early in this campaign.

I admire your fierce intelligence and the loyalty that people who work for you feel. I hope to be as warm and loving a leader, always championing other women. I aspire to your tenacity and commitment to showing up fully prepared. You are ambitious in a world that doesn’t want women to strive. I have the same fire in me.

I don’t agree with all of your policies, but I agree with most, and I respect the way you think through a problem — the way you always gather all the information first. I am inspired by your lifelong and global dedication to human rights, and I am forever in awe of what you’ve done for women’s rights.

You are a woman I will look up to for the rest of my life.

As the results rolled in last night and your path to victory slimmed, the elated mood in the Javits Center turned to stunned horror. As I stared at the newscast on that giant screen above rows of American flags, I was picturing you in your hotel room, trying to imagine what you must have felt.

I cannot begin to know.

You must already know that you deserved a victory. You are the experienced, qualified candidate. You are the even-tempered, inclusive leader that the rest of the world was depending on us to choose. You earned your place in the Oval Office, and you worked hard to get there.

I am so sorry we failed you.

I’ve been thinking a lot about what happened and what it means about the values and beliefs we hold as a country. There are so many factors at play, but among them is a damning reminder that women are not yet equal.

I was sitting next to a man at the Javits Center who thought that Russia must have hacked the election. It seemed unbelievable to him that you could have lost to Trump. Wasn’t it obvious that you were the better candidate? I laughed when he asked me that. I don’t need conspiracy theories to help me believe this outcome. I am shell-shocked, yes, but I believe it.

I believe it because I have watched women strive for ambitious goals, only to be held down and cut back. I’ve watched women lose promotions and jobs to far less qualified candidates. I’ve watched women report sexual assault, only to be ignored. I’ve watched women take the abuses of name-calling, body-shaming, silencing, and gaslighting every single day. I live with no illusion that sexism is not alive and thriving in our country. It is real, and it is present, and it is not a partisan failing.

This result is, of course, not just about gender, but it was that symbol — the first woman in the White House — that I so wanted to see.

When your campaign started, I hardly dared to hope that you could win. I didn’t believe this country was ready for a woman in power. As election day inched closer, as you dominated the debates, as Trump faced accusations of sexual assault and tax evasion, I started to really believe that we could do this. I tucked away that fear in the pit of my stomach, and I let hope outshine it. I believed in you, and I believed in our country.

I dared to believe we were ready.

In your concession speech, you said, “I know we have still not shattered that highest and hardest glass ceiling, but some day someone will and hopefully sooner than we might think right now.”

Your job as our champion has been so thankless. You have been tasked, throughout your career, with blazing a trail for women where there was none. You do all of the hard work for none of the glory.

What a distinctly female task we’ve given you.

I hope you have a chance to meet the woman who does become president, and I hope she is able to thank you personally. I will never be that woman, but you have made all of us aim higher, and for that, I am so eternally grateful. Thank you.

It would be easy, in the wake of this outcome, to harden myself against feeling that hope again. But I know that cynicism is the enemy of progress, and you have fought too hard for us to drop the mantle now. I promise, for your legacy, that I will continue to let hope win, even when I worry that I know better.

When my marriage ended at the beginning of August, my passion for your campaign was part of what got me through. I’d been with my husband for almost twelve years, and he had been my best friend since I was just nineteen years old. Suddenly, we lived three thousand miles apart and knew nothing of each other’s lives. The loss was devastating.

I forced myself to organize friends to canvas for you in swing states, even when my heart was so heavy that the simple task of sending an email felt like a mountain to climb. Canvassing got me out of the house, kept me surrounded by people I love, reminded me that the world was a big and hopeful place.

You gave me purpose when I needed it most.

I feel gutted all over again today. I’m reminded that the pain of grief and loss is the same heart-clenching pain, no matter what the cause. This feeling in my chest today is the same feeling I had the day I moved out of the house my husband and I had shared. The cause is different; the impact is different; but the pain is still the same.

And just as campaigning for you helped me heal from that loss, doing the hard work to unite our country will help me heal from this one.

I am still so inspired watching you, even in defeat. Your grace and poise is unfailing.

You’ve taught us to be strong. You’ve taught us to be resilient. You’ve taught us to keep fighting for what we believe in, no matter the forces against us.

More importantly, you’ve taught us that enemies can become friends. You have always reached across the aisle, always aimed to understand. Your ability to compromise and hear the other side is one of your greatest strengths.

It’s that quality that I hope to channel in the coming years.

We have so much work ahead, and you have laid the foundation to help us do it. I, for one, will try to make the best of the next four years. I will do my part to heal this divided country, and I will carry a bit of you in everything I do.

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to vote for a female president.

Nothing has made me prouder.

-N