{September 21, 2012}   On the Campaign Trail… Optimistic

Every day I wake up and think I can’t, but then I do.  It’s the funny thing about this campaign; I seriously have the exact same emotional roller coaster pattern every day. I wake up optimistic; I read some scripture and listen to inspirational music. I think positive thoughts. I get dressed, I walk the dog, I realize I don’t have time for food, I realize I have yet to go grocery shopping so I don’t have any food. I feel a pang of guilt because I have short changed the dog on his walk. I know that the neighbor will come over mid-day to let him out, but I also know that she seriously doesn’t get dogs and will only walk him for a total of 5 minutes (no exaggeration)… just enough to take the pressure off. That guilt leads to frustration and then my optimism drops a level.

I pull into the parking lot and ready myself for a 14 hour day; it’s a few minutes until I actually have to be in the office so I sit in the car for 3-5 minutes. I scold myself for being that person that doesn’t want to give her employer even five extra minutes. That thought directly leads to me feeling indignant because I never leave the office when I am officially “off” thus, why can’t I have a few minutes to myself! My enthusiasm has dropped another level.

I walk in and soon volunteers are in the office. The morning volunteers are particularly cheerful; the fact that we schedule the perky people as the morning office volunteers is no accident. I smile and see their enthusiasm for the candidate. My enthusiasm increases. I look at my calendar some of my favorite volunteers are coming in today. It really doesn’t matter what day it is because my favorites are the one who come in almost daily. Commitment. I love it. I love that they get it. My enthusiasm doubles!

It’s time for the morning meeting. We talk about our “goals” (quotas), our strategy for achieving it, and how we are going to get our teams to work harder. My team is made up of older people. They care, but they are tired; not just physically but emotionally. As one told me, they’ve done the “activist thing” for years. They want to pass the torch, but the area I’m in makes it difficult. People are middle class to well off. They moved here to avoid the city, the youth, and the minorities. The majority of the populous are content with their monotonous world and their monotone environment. They are living the American dream. They like homogeneity. There are a few who believe that others deserve the same opportunity and understand that hard work alone didn’t get them to this point, but rather an accident of birth gave them the stepping stone to achieve their success. However, they are thankful for the accident and few want to disturb the comfort of their neighborhoods and connections by going against the status quo by publicly helping organizations like the one for which I work. There is a small percentage that put more than money where their mouth is and are trying, and even they have to be poked and prodded to do more. As I look at my goals, I know that my people will try, but it is more than likely, it is very probable, that they will not achieve those goals. My enthusiasm sinks.

It’s one of those situations where you know you can’t win, but you fight for the gold anyways. Plus, you know that so much is hanging on your success than just you hitting your goals. Actual lives can be altered for the worst if your candidate doesn’t win. It’s the ultimate sales job, trying to sell selflessness, but what is at risk is so much more than the quarterly bonus.

I get into my day and I am thankful for those who do show up, who do make calls, who do canvass. I realize why I have to be on my game, so that my team, even though it is small is motivated enough to be on their game.

The day winds down. It’s been long I’m tired I just want a nap. I didn’t take lunch. I ate a little at my desk and felt guilty when a team member walks in on me, as if I’m not supposed to eat. Still, I have about four more hours of phone calls to make, trying to recruit more people to give their time, so that my team doesn’t feel so overwhelmed. I get a few scheduled, but it never counts as a success until they actually show up and work. I’m still tentatively optimistic. However, of the handful of people I have scheduled, I literally called about 200 people. It’s frustrating, how come they don’t see how important this is? How can they be so selfish when it comes to social policy? How can they say they care, that they support, but aren’t willing to give 2 hours? They will spend more time in front of the television tonight! I’m disheartened because I feel like it’s so obvious that one has to give back to their community yet few do.

The office officially closes. I’m worn out, mostly emotionally, but also physically because I try to be cheery and perky while volunteers are in the office. I prep for the next day, because it’s important to be prepared before the volunteers and team members come in each day and I’ve already talked about my few minutes in the parking lot. I’m so tired. We have our evening meeting. I talk about successes of the day, and near misses, I lament about how close my team came to achieving goals, but just didn’t have the man power. I feel like I am in a Ground Hogs day experience sometimes. The exhaustion alone is enough to make me not want to come back tomorrow, but that coupled with the constant failures that come with a job such as this makes it a sure bet that tonight is my last night.

The other campaign workers want to go to the bar. How can they want to go drinking? We are on hour thirteen and we still have things to wrap up. Hour fourteen hits, I know the culture of campaigns insists on after hour bonding so I agree to go for one drink. Because I have such a small team, I need co-workers who feel connected to me. The only way I will survive and succeed in my territory is if they like me enough to help. Especially those who are having an easier time, with more developed teams.

We go out. We laugh, we drink. The alcohol makes me even sleepier. But the conversation about our goals, our hopes for the campaign, and for our careers in general re-energize me. We talk about our sacrifices for this campaign. Some have left school, some jobs, many their home states. I’m not feeling as dejected now; we all are coping with the sacrifices we’ve made for the greater good. Its hour sixteen. I can’t stay any longer, my dog is at home and I am exhausted. Unlike the out-of-towners, I don’t live in housing that is a five-minute drive from the office. No I have a commute. I head home.

I’m greeted by the dog. He has to pee so there is no straight to bed. I walk far longer than it is safe at this hour at night, or should I say morning. Still he is at home all day, he hasn’t gone to the bathroom, and he hasn’t destroyed the house; that deserves a long walk. Next its dishes or laundry. No dinner because there are no groceries. Shower and fall into bed. Only, now I’m not tired, I mean I am. I’m exhausted, it’s just I’m so tired, I’m actually having trouble sleeping. I turn on old reruns, and then I start to drift off. I tell myself that this is only for a short time. This is for the greater good. That I always wanted to be a part of the change in the world, not just make money (all though I am not against making money) and offer no significant contribution. I tell myself, I’m not alone, that I work with people who feel the same way. I tell myself, that we as a group were specifically hired into this area because we can handle difficult communities. I remind myself that even though we confront opposition every day, we were placed in this area because they felt we could handle it. I can handle this. I can do this. I want to do this. I want to make history happen. I drift off to sleep…

The first alarm sounds. I press snooze, a few more minutes maybe that will make me feel like I’ve had more than a few hours of sleep. My second and third alarm goes off. It’s not until I see the pathetic look in my dog’s eyes that I feel guilty enough to rise. I’m optimistic.

My Morning

My Evening


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