I've always been the most politically involved person that most of my family and friends know. This campaign season, I took it to a whole different level, and finally found my place within it all.
I was raised by parents who despite their claims to be Independents, regularly cancelled out each other's votes every election day. We never had yard signs, and politics wasn't regularly discussed around the dinner table. Both Mom and Dad always went to the polls, and my siblings and I were taught that not to vote equated to treason.
As I grew up, I was diagnosed with a severe chronic illness in my teens and spent the next 10 years hospitalized over 70 times made it through each of my 35+ surgeries. Between my parents and I, we spent hundreds of hours on the phone with insurance companies, hospitals and doctors offices. I got sicker, and with each day, angrier and more frustrated with a healthcare system that by all accounts, isn't designed with the patients in mind. Someone suggested that I start advocating my elected officials for funding for health research, much-needed changes to our healthcare policy, and things like a patient's bill of rights, and I decided it couldn't hurt. So in those rare moments of good health, I managed to squeeze an over-night trip to D.C. or Lansing into my schedule, or time to send an email to my representatives, or to friends urging them to send one of their own. And as they say, the rest is history.
I was hooked. Hooked on the possibility that I could spur a change that would help others (and hopefully, myself) and I found an outlet that I could use my mind, something that has always run circles around my fatigued body.
Nowadays, I follow politics at every level, and I'm known for walking up to a candidate I believe in and asking "How can I help you?". I've stuffed more envelopes, made more phone calls, knocked on more doors than I care to remember. Come the second Tuesday of November, my body was exhausted, my mind numb and I would trudge to the polls only to collapse for the next week in recovery. This year, this campaign season, things are different.
I'm a Blogger - and a legit one at that.
I've logged more hours at my computer in the past 6 months than I think I have in the last 4 years that I've owned it. My feet aren't worn down and I don't mistakenly answer my cell phone "Granholm for Governor, how can I help you?" I've made friends in every corner of the state, but I couldn't tell you what most of them look like, because we've never actually met. My regular circle of friends complain that they've forgotten what I look like, and I've had to endure a lot of their teasing, but I almost have their IP addresses memorized. I can spout more facts about why Dick DeVos is bad for Michigan than I probably should know, and I know how to master most Internet search engines. Live-blogging makes my shoulders ache for hours but gets my adrenaline rushing. A peak in my site traffic merits a "Whoopee!" and I've discovered exactly how many words I can type before my tea kettle starts to boil. I've embraced my dorkiness, and now I'm officially liberal, loud, and proud.
Don't get me wrong, I've still stuffed envelopes, made plenty of phone calls, and knocked on more doors than I count this season. But this next week won't find me in recovery mode all seven days. And, no matter the results tonight, I feel an incredible sense of accomplishment.
I've found an outlet where I can use my mind without abusing my body and still have helped the cause and the candidates. I'm still shocked when I get an email from a candidate/campaign who says "Hey, we wanted to give you a heads-up...and thought we'd send you this before it goes to the press." What's even more rewarding, the people I've hero-worshipped as I read their daily posts and diaries for the last couple years have started to accept me as one of their own and call me their peer.
So tonight, just as I have the last four or five elections, I'll whoop for joy with the news, and there will be news that will probably leave me crestfallen. But when I fall into bed tonight, I'll know that I gave it my all, left my mark, no matter how tiny, and found a place where I can help others and the cause, and still not physically pushed myself to the point of exhaustion. I've found my place in the world of 21st Century campaigning, and I'll be darned if it isn't quite fitting.