Hillary Clinton has gone through a number of personal and professional evolutions throughout her life, working in law before being thrust into the political limelight as the first lady of Arkansas and later onto the global stage as the first lady of the United States when her husband Bill Clinton took office as president in 1993. She also was a senator, building her own reputation in politics, and served as secretary of state in the Obama administration before becoming the 2016 Democratic presidential nominee.
Throughout it all, the 73-year-old said that her most difficult transition came after that election when she had to process that her dream of being president, which she thought was in reach, wouldn’t become a reality.
“One of the most difficult transitions I ever had to go through was unexpectedly not becoming president because I thought I was, I thought I was on the path to being the president,” Hillary told Dax Shepard and Monica Padman on Monday’s episode of the podcast Armchair Expert. “I had a very clear idea of what I wanted to do to deal with a lot of the serious problems we face.”
A difficult part of this transition, as any for Hillary since she and Bill had been involved in politics, was that it was taking place in the public eye. “When you go from not being on the global stage to all of a sudden being there, and people are checking to see are you for real or not. And you do get that sense of lack of worthiness,” she explained of the initial “leap” to widespread recognition. After November 2016, however, Hillary tried to avoid exposure to the public for as long as she could.
“I love going for long walks, it’s my mental health exercise. ...Where I live in New York, there’s lots of places to walk that are pretty nice. So like three days after the election I was back in the woods, I wasn’t sure I was ever coming out,” Hillary said. “I walked on a trail, passed a young woman who had a baby in her backpack and had a dog on a leash and I kind of nodded at her. And she took like a step past, just started to cry and said, ‘I’ve got to talk to you, I’ve got to see you.’ We took a picture and she posted it, and then all of the walking in the woods memes started up. But incredibly emotional for me too because up until that point I had basically just been in my house, feeling incredibly distressed. So getting out there and getting to go back to stores, go to the theater, go out to restaurants with my friends, I began interacting with people who were kind of oddly, I think, were also having a transition if you will.”
Related video: Hillary Clinton on fighting for women’s rights
Much like her own grieving at the time, Hillary noticed that people around her felt the same immense disappointment and a sense of hopelessness as a result of the election. “For at least two years, very intensely at first and then beginning to taper off, people would come up and throw their arms around me and sob on my shoulder. They would be with tears streaming down their face. There were a lot of young women who came up and apologized to me because they said they didn’t vote because they said they didn’t think I needed them to vote,” she said. “I really felt the weight of history, the weight of expectation. The thousands of girls and young women who showed up to my events and they’d be wearing the [Nasty Woman] T-shirts. It just had such a sense of possibility.”
And although she admitted to feeling like she had experienced “a failure in public,” Hillary explained that she continued her work to make a difference in the country, most recently by backing Joe Biden and Kamala Harris for president and vice president of the United States, and is thrilled to see a woman fill such a role.
“I always believe that we’re in a relay race and if you care about human rights, human dignity, women’s progress, whatever the positive side of the historic ledger is that you are focused on, you’ve got to applaud the progress that we make,” Hillary said of Harris’s victory. “It made me feel really, really good. It made me feel like, OK, another barrier down and let’s keep opening up the pipeline, let’s keep bringing more people in.
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