On a night that could go either way he learned that living with the Unknown is just that: living.
This isn’t a political push story. This isn’t a lecture in Democratic or Republican politics. And it certainly isn’t a parade in partisan flag waving. This is simply a story with a lesson.
That said, I wouldn’t have written this if it weren’t for politics or a political campaign.
In early March, I was in a small coffee shop going over some ideas I had about a communications strategy for a Port Commission race. It wasn’t entirely attractive, even for a local election. But by the end of the year, it was the most important race in the world to me.
As Communications Director, my job was deceivingly simple: make sure the campaign was getting its message out. A good majority of my work was writing and sending out press releases, developing and maintaining the communications strategy, writing speeches, and making sure that our social media stayed up to date, as well as keeping other communications team members on their assigned tasks.
With all of that rope, it was shocking I hadn’t hung myself entirely.
We cruised through the primary, finishing second and advancing to the general in November. The months raced by and before I knew it, I was standing in the middle of a union hall getting ready for the election results.
It was a bumpy ride up to that point. There was no shortage of calumny or bewildering accusations levied against us. My job was to keep all of that at bay, but when the polls opened on that chilly November day, I logged off Facebook and took a walk downtown. All while trying to wean myself off of my coffee addiction.
I tried to get a better handle on myself during that walk. I tried to process the two distinct (and very realistic) outcomes of winning or losing. The victory speech was typed up, I knew what the candidate would say, but that didn’t grant me any solace. My legs and mind went numb after months of pushing myself to toward the finish line. Along with the numbness, my greatest burden was still following me: I had no idea what was going to happen.
Being at peace with the unknown, for me, has always been a challenge. I crave resolution and despise the feeling of helplessness. My impatience with letting the process run its course only amplified my uneasiness.
But when necessary, I could feign faith in our voters.
Whenever someone would ask me, “Do you think he’ll win?” I would go with a tried and true line: “Well, we’re doing everything we can to win and make sure our guy gets in; but, ultimately, it’s the voter’s choice.” That worked well enough for a while, but somewhere deep down inside of me, I knew it wasn’t true.
I knew there were things I could and should have done better. Everything from rookie mistakes to letting tensions, grudges and egos go over the line.
So I sat at a table in the middle of the room where our election night party was held. I was stuck in vapid thought within political purgatory. Everyone waited for the results to trickle in. I refreshed my phone constantly, mostly in hopes of forcing the physical world around me to bend to my will of getting the results faster.
The candidate, campaign manager, and treasurer had gone up to the local community college where election night media coverage was being held. I was the sole campaign representative at our own party, an entirely terrifying experience by itself.
At one point, I seriously contemplated making a run for the door and driving to the college just to get the results and end the waiting. Patience, again, is not my strong suit.
Instead, I held idle conversations with folks around me, but I couldn’t focus on anything or anyone. My eyes wandered around the room. Occasionally locking onto faces, both familiar and unknown.
Then a Twitter alert popped up. A reporter from the local paper was covering our race specifically, so I set my phone to notify me whenever he tweeted. The results were in and I was breathless. I showed it to the folks I was chatting with and then announced to the room the initial tally:
We had taken a commanding lead, 56 percent to our opponent’s 43 percent.
It was exhilarating
To stand there, watching months of work be validated in a single moment, is a feeling one can never quite forget. The long nights, early mornings and constant conflicts over personal vs. political life ended up being worth it.
Upon his arrival back at the party, I introduced our new Port Commissioner-Elect. After the pictures and speech, the core team retreated to a small dining room off the main area. A minor reprieve from the chaotic atmosphere was something that every individual in that room craved. Words failed everyone, even the two writers in the room.
Because when the magnitude of the moment is so palpable, even those of us who use words to express ourselves are found speechless.
The celebrating came to an end and we all parted ways. But I didn’t walk away empty handed. Instead, I parted with a newfound sense of accomplishment and a valuable lesson. The lesson was relatively simple. Something I should’ve learned a long time ago: revel in the unknown.
Because someday, everything will be final and your pulse will have played its final stanza.
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Photo: Getty Images