It’s a question I asked myself over and over during the last month or so as a first time candidate for public office. I was told it would be a lot of work, but juggling career and family duties with securing votes in an effort to become Town Clerk was certainly more challenging than I could have imagined. “Stressful” doesn’t do the process justice.
You may not have believed me when I told you I wasn’t entirely comfortable with “getting my name out there” if you rolled up to my house last week. Two 4′ x 8′ lawn signs, each with my first and last names in HUGE letters, staked on my tiny front lawn occasionally made me feel silly when I took the dog out to poop in borderline-pajamas. I may have told you, “my husband made me do this!” or apologized to my neighbor for the monstrosity that faced her when she got into her car, headed to the senior center for her “morning exercise”. I was nervous about using pictures of my daughter and I on palm cards and campaign mailers; I felt as though people would shame me for using my toddler’s image in an attempt to wrangle votes. Additionally, I imagined CP’s little face landing in someone’s garbage can – her picture topped with coffee grounds and kitchen sink strainer crud. (*weep*)
For my husband and campaign manager, it was old hat. He does this stuff for work every election season. However, for me, it turned out to be one of the most invigorating, emboldening, terrifying, and emotionally draining experiences ever. My town, the place that I have called home for over ten years, is in major financial difficulty and political turmoil. The opportunity arose for me to campaign for this position and I jumped at it. We are homeowners and my child is (much too) rapidly approaching school age. We intend on staying in town and have been pretty saddened by the fiscal downturn and issues with the school system. And just an FYI – I am not a natural politician, saleswoman, or speaker. As evidenced by my local cable access interview.
So we hit the trail! The campaign trail, that is. And I was particularly stoked because I was able to bring my daughter with me most of the time. (As a full-time working mom, I still struggle with guilt of not spending every waking moment with my Bean during evenings and on the weekends.) This was not always easy, however. And we should totally own stock in Nabisco, as we always kept a large amount of Saltines on hand to keep her pie hole busy when we went door knocking. She’s two and a half so we never really knew what would come out of her mouth as the day waned on. (“Ring the doorbell! Knock harder!” “I tooted!” “I burped!” “Town Clerk in November!”) Some things were more acceptable than others.
At any rate, I did not win the election. However, I can honestly say that I did give it a good fight and I secured more votes than any other Town Clerk candidate ever has when they have gone up against this well-liked-deeply-entrenched long-time incumbent. And when all was said and done, I was really glad I did it. I was a nervous kid, and have become a sometimes too-nervous, emotional, occasionally thin-skinned adult. If I don’t challenge myself in small ways, I can easily become very complacent in doing nothing. And I’m very … well, yes … nervous that my daughter will be a nervous adult. I love the idea of her trying new things as a natural defense to ennui. I’m graced to have wonderful friends and a supportive husband that lift me up and inspire me to raise the bar. And I have a dream for my daughter that she’ll be intrinsically brave and confident. (I’m pretty sure announcing that you “tooted” at a stranger’s door constitutes as confident, right?) OK, so I didn’t win the election, but I’m pretty sure I won something.