Tag Archives: Barack Obama

My Kids Will Never Swim in Nigger Lake

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Last year, I visited my father at his new home in Varnville, South Carolina, population 2,159. I made the trip out of a sense of daughterly duty, because I’m pre-wired to avoid small, southern towns. First of all, I’m not interested in hanging out with anything bred to eat me. The mosquitoes down there are the size of linebackers, instinctively conditioned to track my bourbon-infused high country scent, trap me in some kind of Kafkaesque buzzing halo of wings, and attack. I’m not a fan of brain-crushing humidity either, and on a day when the scale hits ninety degrees and 100% sticky-steamy sog? I’d rather self-service the mercury-lined fillings in my mouth with a pair of rusty pliers than step outside. I’m biased when it comes to the threat of boredom too, but then again, I’ve learned over time that some of us are… biased, that is, and in more meaningful ways than mine.

My dad's barn is the perfect breeding ground for face-eating mosquitos.

My dad’s barn is the perfect hiding place for an army of face-eating mosquitos.

On a deeper level, my discomfort stretches beyond physical borders and into the psyche of my childhood. I’m not exactly from the Deep South, but my entire family hails from Georgia and I was raised in Kentucky. Our roots are planted well below the Mason Dixon line, strong enough to have thrived in an environment of patchy soil, yet somehow growing pliable and firm.

Image via humboldt.edu

The soil I speak of here doubles as a metaphor; I grew up in an era of desegregation, when well-intended county school officials tried to right horrendous wrongs and bring together a black and white landscape dotted by socioeconomic segments of the local population that had always existed too many worlds apart.

On paper, everything looked good. White kids were bused downtown to attend predominantly African-American schools, and black kids traveled tree-lined streets each morning toward polished hallways tucked away in the suburbs. If you took the time to really look…actually peek through the window at my school, though, you’d see a different picture than the one county officials were trying to draw, because statistics aren’t three-dimensional and paint-by-number stories are often incomplete.

Image via tucsoncitizen.com

If you mix red and yellow you get orange, but only when the colors truly blend. That wasn’t happening in my school. We coexisted peacefully but separately, gliding past one another in the hallways like phantom ships; each as unfamiliar to the other as a foreign language. In an environment that was supposed to bring alienated people together, we remained apart. Despite the best of intentions, there was an unspoken sense of “us” and “them,” all depending on who wore the home team jersey.

Image via educationews.org

Even though I was raised in a family that believed strongly in racial equality, bigotry surrounded me like the stench of stale smoke when I was growing up. It was far enough away for me to keep its cancerous tentacles at bay, but always lurked in the shadows; behind a decaying door I didn’t want to open. No one in my family was surprised that the minute I graduated from college I catapulted myself to Chicago. I have many reasons to love my hometown, but I always felt a little out of place, like I was the prototypical boomerang kid destined to wander away with a clear path toward home marked on a map tucked safely in my pocket. Just in case.

I left for college in 1988, and since then have only been back to visit. I can’t pin my permanent move away from my southern roots on racism, but in the busy streets of Chicago I found a place that truly felt comfortable…bursting with people dressed in a kaleidoscope of cultures, ideas and opinions. Everyone was different, which is to say, in many ways, the same.

Image via smartdestinations.com

All I have to do is look in the mirror to see that 1988 was a long time ago. My guess is that anyone who happens to read this post and lives in Louisville would say my hometown has grown and flourished both racially and culturally since I left. I’ll take a preemptive guess, and trust that’s the case.

So what does all of this have to do with Varnville, SC?

On Monday, as I watched President Obama ask America to look forward to the future in his inaugural address, I couldn’t help but think about the recent past. I was reminded of a conversation I had with one of my dad’s neighbors in Varnville last spring when I went to visit him: stalked by mosquitos in the blazing hot sun, and a little bored. Tucked into a backdrop of harmless talk about crops, cows, and kids, he told me that if I brought my children to visit their grandfather, I should be sure to take them swimming in Nigger Lake. The word rolled off his tongue seamlessly, as if it had always belonged right where it sat. Stubborn. Repulsive. Wrong.

No matter how much the world changes, some people, sadly, stay the same. On a day when I should have focused on how far our country has come, I was reminded of where we have yet to go.

I’d like to blame whatever remains of racism in America on the people who fought for what I consider to be the wrong side of the Civil War. My people. But before posting, I sent this to my super-scary-smart cousin, Barry Paschal, a newspaper publisher in Georgia. The subject matter I’m writing about makes me uncomfortable, and since I generally like to bask in the glow of a warm, rising sun, I wanted to test this rancid water and consider his point of view. He responded with an incredibly thoughtful critique, including a simple Google search that highlighted other parts of our country like Niggerhead Point, VT and Niggerhead Rapids, ID, two areas that clearly aren’t in the south. He helped me see that our problem is pervasive, and exists wherever we, as individuals, choose to let it live. With that thought in mind, it still surprised me that my spellcheck didn’t auto correct the word “nigger” when I proofed this piece. It recognized it. How sad.

The state of New York renamed its own Nigger Lake in 2011. Image via gawker.com

What Do You Do When The Party’s Still Going But the Hangover’s Already Begun?

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Yesterday I expressed an unmistakable political preference through my outspoken alter ego, Gemini Girl, and if the thought of two voices running through one head makes you uncomfortable, try taking a look at the secondary characters rolling around up there. Some people seem to like her. Others don’t. When I was sixteen years old, the direct nature of her point of view would have intimidated me to the point of paralysis, but now that I’m forty-two? Bigger things than winning Homecoming Queen keep me awake at night. I still kind of care about wearing the right jeans and all, but don’t tell anyone.

It’s 3:30 a.m., and many of those larger issues (not to mention half a bottle of a solid, if cheap Malbec) have turned on a mind that swore at about midnight it would dream peacefully of greater days ahead for our country; of a nation redirecting toward the right side of it’s immigrant roots, a more forgiving silhouette of equality, and the sense of spirit and idealism that once led a disenfranchised group of colonists to reach for something more.

Under the artificial light glowing in my kitchen, though, my Utopian fantasies look more like hallucinations, as temporary as the confetti that rained down in a blur of glory last night, already swept up and thrown away.

Our nation was at war with itself before the Declaration of Independence was even penned, and today? It still is. Thomas Jefferson famously insisted that all men are created equal, but it doesn’t feel that way to me in yet another election where almost half the country declared, through a constitutional right to vote, that “this is not my guy.

This morning, the hope and optimism I felt four years ago has been replaced by a sober sense of urgency and purpose, because not as Democrats, not as Republicans, but as a nation, we need to get it right. What do I mean by “it”? Everything. How do you define everything? The same way you catch confetti falling from the sky. One piece at a time.

With an almost unfathomable amount of debt busting through the lining of our collective pockets and an economy that’s only recently shown sputtering signs of life, I don’t feel like celebrating. I want to work, because a promise that doesn’t meet the greater good of all the people it’s meant to serve quickly becomes a hollow reminder of what could have been. And we aren’t a nation made of yesterday’s news. Not at all.

If we’re to live up to the challenge of our forefathers; to exist as a nation of the people, by the people, and for the people, we must respect yet set aside our differences, move quickly and methodically toward a platform of common ground, and sacrifice for the greater good. We can’t let partisanship succeed any more than allowing our school systems to fail. We have to hold our President, our Congress, and perhaps most importantly, ourselves accountable for future generations, because the re-emergence of this great country depends on every single person privileged enough to call it home.

Last night, while striking his trademark inspirational chord of hope, the President looked and sounded more mature than he did four years ago. But we’ve grayed a little around the temples too. Let’s hope we’re all wiser for the wear.

I’m Coming Out of the Closet

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No, not THAT closet. The closet in my front hallway, which is where I like to hide out when propaganda-laden neighbors try to beat down the front door and my kids come home from school.

You think you’ve got it hard? Try living in a subdivision where only .00019387% of the residents support your candidate. It’s like The Hunger Games around here just trying to put up a lawn sign.

Katniss Everdeen’s got nothing on me when I’m putting an Obama bumper sticker on my car. (Image via the fantasy dreamlike sequences that often invade my brain.)

Colorado’s electoral votes may be up from grabs today, but everyone knows that’s based largely on the growing prison population in Canon City and all of those weirdos who live in Boulder.

“What? I’m at a college football game? I thought this was an Obama rally!” (Image via some lady in Boulder sitting next to me at a college football game.)

Out here in suburban Utopia, where unicorns fly children to school every day and teachers would rather be paid in happy face stamps than cash, things look a little different. 

That’s my neighbor, taking a little joy ride in his Gulf Stream C-37. (Image via my unsuspecting neighbor, who didn’t know I took this picture, but would nevertheless approve this message.)

So at the risk of having my house egged, TP’d, and someone stealing the limited edition Barack Obama bobblehead doll I have buried upside down in the front yard for good luck, I’m coming out of the closet. Someone has to be the voice of reason around here, and since the other three Democrats in the neighborhood are riding out the election in their state-of-the-art political fallout shelter/wine cellars, I’m stepping up to the plate.

Who cares who wins the election? I’m getting tanked down here! (Image via someone with a lot of cash.)

Why I’m Voting For Barack Obama:

1. As much as I like to talk about my big balls I was, in fact, born with a vagina. 

2. Contrary to what liberal-leaning Supreme Court Justices want you to believe, Ruth Bader Ginsburg may in fact be nothing more than the airbrushed image of her former self. According to someone on the radio who sounds a lot like Rush Limbaugh, Tupac and Justice Ginsburg are the two most famous holograms ever to appear at the Coachella Music Festival.

Tupac’s from Kenya too, right?

3. Because Donald Trump isn’t.

4. Since I was blessed with a vagina at birth, I want it to be happy.

That’s my vagina after two margaritas. OK, that’s not really mine, but isn’t it cute?

 

5. Because I believe in giving back. Take for instance, my neighbor down the street with the ginormous Romney sign tattooed onto the back window of his A8. He’s a retired CFO who works at H&R Block four months out of the year and then collects unemployment benefits to cover utilities and taxes for his beach house. He’s too busy customizing the shaft of his seven-iron to even realize he’s part of the 47%!

I found this by googling “Old guy swinging golf club.” I’m serious. Try it. (Image via guardian.co.uk.)

6. I’m voting for Barack Obama in honor of my mom. As a teacher, principal, and VP for a non-profit family literacy organization, she chose a career of service rather than one lined with stock options. Even though she could have set me up with a sweet trust fund, and instead gave me, like, a college education (whatevs!), gravity dictates that the fruit doesn’t fall far from the tree.

Don’t mess with my mom.

And for all of my well-intended Republican friends who are plotting to take me to lunch this afternoon and slip me a ruffie so I can’t make it to the polls? Too late. Just like you, I’ve already cast my vote.

So that’s it. I’m out in the open, and even though I’ve now put my life into your hands, I’m not worried. My uber-supportive husband picked up an awesome disguise at the WalMart after-Halloween sale last week so I can leave the house unharmed.

My husband knows a patriot when he sees one. (Image via victoriassecret.com)

I Said I’d Never Write About Politics, But I Know Paul Ryan and I’ve Got Some Advice.

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Who am I to Paul Ryan? No one and everyone.

I’m a forty-two year old suburban mom who knew Paul in college. I’m also a registered Democrat who has voted for both parties over the last twenty-four years. I live in Colorado, a state that offers electoral votes crucial to the outcome of this year’s presidential race. I’m a bleeding heart who lives in a gated community. I’m self-sufficient, yet I feel a responsibility to help others who are in need. As a voter, I’m a pretty interesting mix, difficult to label and hard to define. In my experience, most women are, and from what I understand, our demographic will be a deciding factor in November.

Who is Paul Ryan to me? Someone to watch.

As a U.S. citizen, I’m troubled by the precarious spot our nation occupies on an international chessboard of pieces in constant flux. I don’t support finger-pointing and placing blame for an economy that was weakened by both parties as much as free will. I’m concerned about the future of my children. I dislike negative politics and am frustrated by the inability of our bipartisan House and Senate to find common ground. I’m an optimist who believes tomorrow will be a brighter day, but I see real storm clouds in my direct line of sight. I want our country to move forward, and I’m worried about falling behind.

I’m a daughter, a sister, a mother, and a friend. I vote with my head and I vote with my heart. I read. I listen. I debate. I decide. I’m a potential liability and asset to both campaigns.

Three generations of women who don’t always vote the same way. Image via Stacie Chadwick

And with Mitt Romney’s introduction of Paul Ryan as his running mate, I’m now engaged in this race in a way that I hadn’t been before. Maybe it’s the deepening differences I see in the platforms of the two opposing parties. Better yet, a curiosity around the potential impact of a clear, if not controversial voice. Perhaps it’s due simply to the fact that I know Paul. More likely, it’s my hope that he’ll take the time to reacquaint himself with me, and by that I mean millions of women like me who will vote in the upcoming election.

I also consider Paul to be a friend. Am I jumping on the bandwagon headed straight from Janesville, WI to a national stage? Probably. Although I’ve followed his career, I haven’t spoken with Paul in over twenty years. But something about his addition to the shape of our legislative landscape piques my interest. Regardless of political beliefs, I’m proud that we graduated in the same class at Miami, watched votes together in the Senate gallery when we interned in D.C., and hung out on campus. I’m betting on an accurate memory of the person he was when we were college kids masquerading as adults, and a time-honored belief that as individuals, we don’t really change. In the heat of battle, we often forget the people behind the politics. I knew him as a smart, ambitious, honest guy with Midwestern values and a focused vision. I’m sure he still is. And now? He’s running for Vice President of the United States of America. When I tell my children that they can be anyone they want to be, I can now point to someone I know who is.

Children masquerading as adults. Image via Stacie Chadwick.

So surrounded by a cacophony of shrieks and giggles sung by kids who are stealing the last ounce out of summer on their way back to school, enough dirty laundry to fill a semi, and a stack of bills, I’m doing what I said I never would. I’m flipping my position and writing about politics. I’m offering unsolicited advice to someone who pays people to advise him. I do this because I’m a woman and a friend. It’s my nature. Humor me.

***

Dear Paul,

Mitt Romney’s misspoken reference to you as “the next president of the United States” plays directly into what should be the underlying backbone of your political strategy. Run with a broader vision than the role of Vice President and set your own course.

Show us how you simultaneously lower government spending and make a real commitment to education and job creation. As mothers, we have children who are high school dropouts and can’t support themselves, and post-college boomerang kids who are underemployed. We understand that there’s a real chance their generation will reach a ceiling constructed at a lower height and of lesser materials than ours, buttressed by flawed trusses and support beams. Show us a concrete plan to correct a system that’s broken and produces students who continue to slide behind other countries in core curriculum, is rooted in the industrial age, and pays teachers much less than what they’re worth.

Addressing the economy is a given, so consider looking at it from our point of view. As mothers and wives, we’re often the emotional backbone as well as a financial anchor for our families. What we earn in a paycheck we give back in time spent away from our children. Dig deeper than budget cuts and tax reform in addressing our role in this issue, and show your sensitivity to our increasingly complex jobs.

The Wall Street Journal has championed your cause for years, but the majority of its readership is already part of your base. Embrace media outlets that will challenge your voice, but give you a long runway. With your intelligence and passion, a successful one-on-one with someone like Katie Couric could be a brilliant move, made more so by the failure of your predecessor’s endeavor.

Show us how you privatize Medicare without decimating it. We’re the daughters of aging parents and the mothers of children with disabilities, and often serve as emotional and physical lifelines to three generations of our family. We’re taxed and we’re tired, and yes, a little scared.

Disclose your tax statements. Immediately.

Follow your heart. The ugly side of bipartisanship is based on a world painted in black and white, when most of reality exists in various shades of gray.

Channel Alex Trebek and brush up on foreign affairs. You already know that Syria is further away from Wisconsin than Russia is from Alaska, so silence the naysayers.

Dial down the camo and the ammo. There’s a large group of undecided female voters who will roll their SUVs to save one of the thousands of overpopulated jackrabbits darting in front of their truck as they race off to the grocery store to figure out what’s for dinner.

Give us a small glimpse of the family behind the photo op. To the extent it’s not invasive, let us see the side of your life that we live every day…dropping the kids off at school after the tardy bell rings and staying up late to watch the Olympics as laughter turns to tired tears. We’ll relate to the emotions behind the smiles on your annual holiday card because we know how many tries it takes to get the perfect picture.

My family had to climb a fourteener, build a guard rail, and go without water for three days to get this pic. OK, not really, but it felt like it. Image via Stacie Chadwick.

You’re a well-versed, physical, engaging public speaker: use your open hand gesture and tone down the finger pointing. The first makes us feel included and the second one doesn’t.

You’re an athlete, you vacation in Colorado, and you love the outdoors. It might be a good idea to take a well-documented run through our great state. There are a lot of thirty to fifty year-old female voters who are athletes, live in Colorado, and love the outdoors.

Act like both a CEO and a salesman. Use your gut to champion causes and finesse to drive them home. Women follow people we trust and hire people we like.

Translate the budget deficit into a language we understand: a realistic picture of how the current trajectory will impact our children and our grandchildren’s lives is much more meaningful than rhetoric.

You’re at the heart of our demographic, and your youthful enthusiasm is appealing. Don’t run away from your age.

As women and constituents, we’re straight, gay, wealthy, and poor. We’re married, divorced, widowed, and single. We’re CFOs of corporations and Treasurers of the family budget. We’ve started businesses that have flourished and others that have failed. We’ve decimated our savings accounts and we’ve cut our discretionary spending to build them back up. We’ve sacrificed for our families and feel a twinge of guilt whenever we take time for ourselves. We’re smart, dedicated, and we care about the future of our country. We’re uneasy about the prospect of war but are passionately committed to taking care of our soldiers. We’re healers who want to leave the world a better place for our children than the one we gave them, and we’re not sure that we can.

We vote with our heads, and we vote with our hearts. Understanding the significance of that phrase is the key to your success in our demographic. Your introduction to this race has attracted our attention. My best unsolicited advice? Find a way to keep it.

Regards,

Stacie Whitten Chadwick

No matter where you go, your friends will always have your back. Image via Stacie Chadwick.

As always, please feel free to leave a comment. My only request is that you refrain from personal attacks and inflammatory statements. Due to the polarizing nature of the subject matter, this is my first and last foray into politics. I think.

Colorado is Burning

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I’ve always been a big non-believer in luck, at least the kind that bleeds bank accounts dry because it’s tied to an arbitrary sequence of numbers that careen down a treacherous path to nowhere. The definition of luck I subscribe to isn’t random. It can’t be bought or sold. It’s more of that mathematical equation based on the concept of preparation plus opportunity yielding positive results…a fortunate position that’s actually earned through hard work, dedication, and skill.

With devastating fires consuming large chunks of my state, I’ve thought a lot about luck lately, and how my perception of its significance is changing as quickly as the landscape morphs outside, both products of a caustic natural catastrophe fueled by a flame that flickers and fades only to catch the wind and ignite under a hazy cloak of dark sky.

Image via notmytribe.com

Colorado is one of those rare places that captures the attention of anyone with vision. If you’re fortunate enough to get here, you never want to leave, because the perspective inspires artists and poets, athletes and day-trippers, and you and me to harness a small piece of the beauty surrounding us and do more. Become better. Grow stronger. Rise to the occasion of a 360-degree view.

But Colorado is burning, and I want to know why.

Image via canoncitydailyrecord.com

Someone who’s deeply religious might say that the fires are simply God’s Will. I’m not that person, because many of the things I want to see stretch beyond the grasp of my mind’s reach and are firmly rooted in the beauty of the landscape that is now being destroyed. Any higher power I might believe in doesn’t cherry pick victims.

Image via foxnews.com

A scientist could point to Global Warming, one of the probable causes of the lingering beetle infestation that’s killed so many of our trees and created forests full of kindling. While that’s arguably a factor, trees don’t spontaneously combust.

Image via handcraftedsites.com

An ecologist may speculate that the fires are simply a means of deforestation, and thus, a necessary part of life’s natural cycle, but this point of view doesn’t take into account the loss of hundreds of homes and displacement of tens of thousands of evacuees who sit in a daze on second-hand sleeping bags with the pins and needles of loss stinging their spines.

Image via tampabay.com

As I watch the smoke plume into the sky, surrounding and swallowing the mountain views I’ve always taken for granted, there’s one thing that’s clear. Short of the sickening thought of an arsonist lighting a match and letting it fly, there isn’t a single spot to place blame. These fires belong to everyone and no one, because as much as any other factor, they are the result of luck. Horrible, catastrophic, painful, defective, damaged luck.

Image via bloomberg.com

Colorado is burning, and similar to the view out my window, the way I see the role that luck plays in life is different today than it was last week. There’s the luck tied to opportunity…a cooler day, a subtle shift in the wind patterns, or a sudden storm over the foothills that sneaks up unannounced. We need that.

Image via forbes.com

Then there’s the luck associated with preparation that will impact the trajectory of this fire…the complex matrix of organizers, first responders to the scene, and thousands of volunteers working 24/7 to help those in need. Without them, this fire would be a raging incumbent, unchallenged and out of control.

Image via coloradodaily.com

Finally, there’s the luck I didn’t quite believe in before this catastrophe…call it serendipity, kismet, karma, or a fluke. It’s that point in time when everything right or something deeply wrong happens for no apparent reason, and life simply looks up. Or down.

My state has been on the wrong side of luck for too many days in a row now, and we’re all trying to do whatever we can to force change. Thanks to the generous residents of this amazing place I’m fortunate enough to call home, a group of us will take a truckload of supplies down to Colorado Springs today in an attempt to help those who are fighting future loss, and others mourning the things that are gone.

Image via 2amazonaws.com

But in an attempt to somehow brush up against that serendipity, kismet, karma, or fluke from above, I’m also crossing my fingers, doing a rain dance, and wishing on a star with the hope that the skies will clear, the fires will retreat, tomorrow will be better, and the kind of luck we need so badly will come back around to the right side.

If you would like to contribute to the fire relief efforts, place considering making a donation to the American Red Cross http://www.coloradoredcross.org.

I Think I Threw the Presidential Election

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No, not that election. The Eastern High School Class of 1988 presidential race. Like, duh.

I’m not kidding when I say there’s a real chance I may have tainted the results. Add the fact that I was actually one of the candidates, and you’ve got the makings of an Academy Award-winning thriller. Think All The President’s Men plus really big hair, raging hormones, dried out Clearasil acne wipes, and teen angst, and you’ve pretty much got the seedlings of a plot. (O.K., so maybe my story isn’t Oscar-caliber material, but it’s at least BAFTAish, or something the International Indian Film Academy would really like).

Tricky Dick. Image via Flickr.

Anyway, in order to move forward in life we sometimes need to go back. In this case, all the way to 1984, when as an EHS freshman, I ran for and won the Vice Presidential race. Back then, Eastern was the home of the fighting eagles, Future Farmers of America (FFA wants your offspring, especially if Jon Junior knows how to wield a scythe), the Rifle Team, and some sweet hamburger hash made in Home Ec. Serving as Vice President was totally awesome because:

Our lunch ladies loved serving hamburger hash.

1. Similar to other VPs, I didn’t have to actually do anything the entire time I held office. Our class President was the heavy lifter, and as Vice President, I just sat in the lunchroom at after-school meetings, nodded my head strenuously to everything she proposed, and threw back like, three Mountain Dews and five or six Little Debbie snack cakes in an hour. By the time we finished? I cruised out the door in a sugar-coated fog and laid down some serious back handsprings waiting for my mom to pick me up.

2. I trolled around every hallway and corridor in the building without a pass. In high school, the freedom to go where you wanted, when you wanted traded like jail cell currency.  Because I was an elected official, our super-sleuth security guard who busted kids for smoking in the bathroom, cutting class, and bad personal hygiene, just smiled and waved whenever I walked by.

3. Major action in the yearbook. Check out the ginormous pic on the front page of the freshman class section. That’s me in the top left corner with braces, cloisonné earrings, and my eyes closed. I’m probably taking a nap.

I wanted asymmetrical hair sooo bad. But Mom said no.

All in all, being VP was pretty great until all hell broke loose the summer before sophomore year when our reigning President’s family decided to move. Left with a gaping hole at the top of our ranks after summer break, all eyes turned to you-know-who to fill the spot, which I was happy to do because:

1. I still had braces and thought that Class President credibility might deflect from the consistent cornucopia of processed lunch meat stuck between my teeth.

2. Class Officer status was the gateway to being voted Class Favorite. Class Favorite was the portal to, well, an entirely parallel universe of popularity…snagging both the best table in the cafeteria (if you beat the upperclassmen through the lunch line), and the back row on the bus (unless you had a friend with an older brother you could pay to drive you home).

3. I wanted that big picture in the yearbook again.

4. Winning would score major points with my mom.

With a fair amount of effort on my part and the support of my class blowing like the wind at my back, I won. Thrust into a position of real expectation, I surprised myself and thrived.

Life at the time was pretty sweet. Or so I thought. But every rise paves the way for a massive fall, and mine was bathed in a hue of true idiocy.

That's me at the bottom with my feet kicked back on the desk. And a stupid look on my face. And a Mountain Dew in my hand.

In an effort to make everyone happy that year, I played both sides to the middle.  Not in my Presidential duties…I was pretty solid there. I failed in the day-to-day details with my friends…the exact people who voted me into office, but more importantly, shared the highlights of my life.

Whenever my old school besties asked me to hang out on the weekend, I’d say yes, find out that my miscreant upper class boyfriend was going somewhere else with or without me, ditch my original plans, and follow him right down the road to my demise. Not only was I hanging out way too much with someone everyone else said was a waste of a second thought, I was spending zero time with the people who mattered; after saying I would, then bagging out at the last minute, making up a transparent excuse, and canceling plans. I was a total turncoat, or the slam of all high school slams, two-faced.

Aaron Eckhart as Two-Face in The Dark Knight

Image via Wikipedia.

Sitting under a heavy cloak of the damage I’d done, I half-heartedly ran for President again at the beginning of my junior year because, really, what incumbent doesn’t seek a second term? I lost (big shock), to my Sergeant-at-Arms who I thought had my back. But I was totally out of touch, and she probably thought I was doing drugs in the bathroom with my loser boyfriend (for the record I wasn’t), and was looking at a bigger picture than I wasn’t allowing myself to see.  All’s fair in love, war, and high school though, and today I hold no grudge.

Queen Bee (comics)

Class President and Queen Bee. Image via wikipedia.

By winter break, I truly felt the sting of loss. Not the election necessarily, but the gravity of important friendships I let slip away. So rather than spending my weekends pining after a guy who wasn’t going any further than juvie jail (that relationship is a blog in and of itself: totally cute rebel who walks the wrong side of the line and has a Pied Piper effect on anyone who crosses his path, or maybe not anyone, but definitely me), I got my act together. I dumped the loser, started dating a great guy (still older, but every girl I knew trended up), and began the process of fixing all of the important relationships I allowed to fall apart.

English: Studio publicity portrait for film Giant.

By the time senior year rolled around, I was back. Tight with my besties, focused on the future, and ready to run, again, for the spot at the top. I was lucky. My friends gave me a second chance, which isn’t the way every story unfolds.

Eyes clear and looking forward, I realized how much I missed being a leader while following someone else around, and I wanted my old job again. I made flyers, posters, buttons, and glitter-glued banners with my name in huge, neon-lettered sparkle paint. I promised a ski trip to the seniors if I was elected (yes, you can pledge whatever you want in high school and you can actually ski in Kentucky if you don’t mind face-planting down an ice hill in your long underwear and Jordache jeans), and envisioned plans for dances, parties, and prom. I chose a grassroots representative in every home room, spread the word, solicited votes, and put myself out there. I wanted to win. Bad.

But because I was seventeen, or stupid, or still a little too concerned with looking cool, I voted for the incumbent Prez when it came time to cast my ballot. Yes, I intentionally put my chit solidly behind the other team. In case I lost. Which I did. As fate and everyone voting that day decided it should be.

When the school Principal announced that the other girl had won, he made a point to note over the PA system for everyone to hear, that it was the closet class election in the history of our school. This meant nothing to everyone else and the world to me. So I got up, calmly walked out of class (my former officer status still bought me a free pass in the halls), slammed into the girl’s bathroom, and cried.

Big hair can hide your pain.

Had I lost by a vote? Handed-delivered the election to my opponent in a vain attempt to act like I didn’t care? Changed the course of history on that fateful day?

Probably not, but there are lessons to be learned here, and if anyone running for office or running away from the good things in life happens to stumble on this blog, you might consider taking my mistakes to heart.

1. Don’t take anyone for granted. Ever. Especially people you truly love.

2. Protect your base, because if you don’t? They’ll find someone else who will.

3. Stay away from anyone who might tarnish your reputation. Or does drugs. Or gets tossed out of school. Or goes to jail. Or treats you badly. Or is crazy. Or doesn’t floss. Or is a future embezzler. Or kicks your dog.

4. Say what you mean and mean what you say.

5. Don’t try to be all things to all people and try not to be anything to some.

So that’s it. My elected official days are long gone, which is good, because now that I’m writing, you never know when the skeletons in my closet might decide to wake up.