Races run, lessons learned
by Emily Gallagher
Sep 14, 2017 | 3467 views | 0 0 comments | 101 101 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Exactly one year ago, I concluded my first ever race for office. I ran for district leader to represent our fine community, and it was the most intimidating, scary and rewarding thing I have ever done. This Election Day, I decided to reflect a little.

In November 2015, a longtime community activist mentioned the district leader race to me in passing. She asked myself and a few other community-involved people if we would have any interest in running. When she pitched the idea, I was curious.

It was something I had never done before and had never imagined doing. I was trying to live more in a world of possibility and make my own world larger.

Before I knew it, I was having more serious conversations about running. I had a lot of fears about running: speaking out loud, that I was a fraud, and that once I put my name out there next to my ideas, there was no going back.

It didn't matter to me that this was a very small, unpaid position. It was still more public than I had ever been before, and to me it meant being truly accountable and responsible for my own beliefs and opinions.

It terrified me. I could not imagine in my mind a situation where it did not end in humiliation or failure. I would sit up at night, wondering if I should take the risk. It would require other people's time and money. It would require people to trust me enough to give, and I didn't like asking.

When I did decide to run, I had to learn so much about the system. I had to ask for help in so many ways. My friends showed up, and people I had long admired showed up. I felt so humbled, I was overwhelmed.

I met people who wanted to volunteer for me not because they knew me, but because they agreed with my principles. This gave me strength. I started to believe increasingly that my voice mattered, that my principles were not foolish.

The more I was pushed out on stage or in front of a reporter or in front of a neighbor I had not met, the more authentic to myself and my goals I became.

I met amazing people who spent so much of their own personal time doing thankless and hard work, volunteering for me to get the word out. I felt a sense of duty and responsibility to them because they believed in my message.

Elections are intimidating, overwhelming, confusing, and a ton of work, but they are also a place of true community. Last year, I spent many nights crying in fear that I could not be who I thought I would like to be and that I did not believe in myself enough to make it happen. That the challenge was too great and that I would feel utter despair if I lost.

But when I did lose, I did not feel utter despair. I felt educated, inspired, supported, and amazed. I felt like for the first time in my life I had learned that I could really do something big. That if I stood up confidently, others would come to my side and join me, and that I had so many friends I had never met.

Suddenly, all my ideas were on the table, not just the tangible ones. I felt for the first time that I could really dream. I came to understand that we are only as big as our commitment to our principles, our patience, and our authenticity.

I have grown so much over the last year, and now I feel ready for anything. I learned that I have a real capacity for hard work. I also learned that we really need each other's support. Now, a year later, I feel like a different, more confident, more caring and committed person.

Running for office was the best thing I've ever done. I feel like I met the real me for the first time. I also now believe that with good strategy, patience, virtue, time, and mutual support, we can build the community we believe in and create better versions of ourselves through spirited collaboration. We are doing it now.
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