Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Hi Aunt Kim

So, my aunt may be the only person still reading my blog, nonetheless, Aunt Kim you deserve something to read. And because I had the probably the lamest day on planet earth, here is something I wrote a while back for my Intermediate Writing class about my voting experience. I thought this would make for more interesting reading:

Fallen leaves crunched under my flip-flops as I walked the four blocks to my polling place. It was November 4th, Election Day, but it sure didn't feel like it.

I gently shuffled through the piles of leaves blanketing the sidewalk. Looking down at my feet, as I usually do when I walk, I noticed that the leaves on the ground were intact. Usually at this time of the year, sidewalks and streets are covered with the remains of beautiful foliage that has been pounded into a brown dust. But no dust here, in fact some of the trees in Missouri have yet to even change color.

I think the temperature reached 75 degrees that fall day, but for my Chicago blood it might as well have been 105. Having taken only a few steps out the door, I regretted not grabbing my sunglasses. The sun was still bright at 3:00 p.m. At least I had swapped my jeans for shorts.
This unseasonably warm Election Day would eventually make the history books for more than one reason, but for me there was one historic first that super seeded all the rest: this was my first time voting in a presidential election.

Although I was registered to vote at home in Chicago’s Cook County, I filed a change of address form and became a registered voter in the state of Missouri. My vote mattered more here anyway. So, I was to vote at a local Lutheran church a few blocks away from my East Campus apartment. Convenient, especially since my friend Lisa was voting there also.

"I guess we picked the hilliest route," I said to Lisa as we trudged up Anthony Street. "You think?" she seemed to say with the raise of her eyebrows. There was no time for a verbal response in between her deep breaths. As the sidewalk narrowed from college students' unkempt lawns and overgrown bushes, I mechanically got behind her. At that moment, I realized I was glad I wasn’t alone. My overly sensitive self had secretly wanted someone to share the experience with.

At this point in our walk, my anticipation was palpable. As we drudged steadily up the hill, I felt like I was on a roller coaster climbing to its peak. I am typically a very anxious person; even the thought of a situation I am unfamiliar with will make me sick to my stomach. I think of it as a vastly magnified fear of the unknown and in the weeks preceding the election I had dreams, or rather nightmares, about voting. In one I got to a polling place and was handed a blank ballot, and no one would acknowledge that there was anything wrong with it. In another, people kept stopping me to talk and eventually my time ran out and the polling place closed- without my vote.

I’ll be the first to admit that this fear about voting is somewhat unjustified. After all, I went to public schools that served as polling places in my hometown, so I knew what they looked like. I knew they were extremely informal and actually really anticlimactic. However, when I thought about people voting in the hallways of my school what really stuck out was being told repeatedly to be quiet and not disturb the adults. Now, I would be that adult hoping for others' silence so I could make conscious and thoughtful decisions.

In reality, I didn't need silence to cast my ballot. My mind was made up months, probably even years ago.

As we approached the doorway to the church, Lisa paused for a moment. She looked at me and said, “I’m the one who’s with you your first time voting.” Yes, I nodded. “And you are always going to remember this moment.” I nodded again. And she’s right. I think this experience can definitely be classified as one of those rights of passage that will never really escape my memory.

When we walked inside, there was no line. I had heard of longer lines at Starbucks with people waiting for their free coffee. Nonetheless, I showed them my id and was given a ballot and a short explanation as to what to do. I couldn’t tell if my voting location just happened to be particularly efficient or if I had just come at a slow time, but there was nothing to be anxious about, or even really excited.

Instead, I did my patriotic duty, got a much sought after “I voted” sticker and walked out proud to be an American, just as the song suggests.