I have been waiting years for the moment when I would finally vote.
I used to go with my mom to the polls early in the morning and beg the lady at the desk to give me an “I Voted” sticker. I would stick it on my chest and pretend with all of my elementary school teachers that I had somehow snuck in. In middle school I stayed after class to make posters and pins for our mock elections. Even in junior high I religiously watched the news and read the paper. I wanted so terribly to turn 18.
My 16th birthday came and went and I didn’t get my drivers license — that didn’t excite me. My seventeenth birthday arrived, too, and although I could legally see R-rated movies, and was considered an adult in the wizarding world, I just wanted the next year to fly by.
Late this summer I turned 18. I registered to vote almost the same day. My excitement was uncontrollable. Every piece of confusing mail I received from the government added fuel to my fire.
But then this week came. Judgment week. The time when undecided voters, like myself, have to pick. And as I sat hunched over my too-yellow official sample ballot and my glowing computer screen I felt myself getting upset.
Local politicians weren’t too hard for me, although a few came down to some nitty gritty policies. But I got to the doozy, who to choose for President of the United States.
The ballot says there are four options. Barack Obama. Mitt Romney. Gary Johnson. Virgil Goode.
I sat, pencil poised to choose, scare tactic-ads playing on my computer, polls pulled up in another window, information that both parties had sent me laid out all over the kitchen table.
I got angry. I felt tears welling up and my fists clenching. This wasn’t what I had waited 18 years for. This couldn’t be. I wanted to be excited, to be overwhelmed by the sincerity of a speech, to think that one of the candidates could better the nation. I want to feel like the candidate that I fill in my oval for will make a difference. But I just didn’t believe it.
Voting used to seem so easy to me. Go into the p
oll, check, check, check, you’re done. But it weighs so heavily on me now.
I am worried. I am worried where the country – no, the world, – will be in four years. Or ten years. Or fifty years. I am worried about the mounting debt crisis. I am saddened by the fact that many kids who spend their whole life trying to get out of overwhelming college debt. I am frustrated that wars are being fought on every front, often for the wrong reasons. I feel hopeless about supporting Medicare in the future. I feel wronged by social liberties being taken away. Natural resources are being depleted. Costs for a business to compete in today’s market are rising. Medical research is strapped for cash. Banks are closing. The world seems like such a scary and terrible place.
I feel a heavy burden. My vote is not the lighthearted gift I thought it would be but a heavy yoke of adulthood. I guess adulthood is like that, a grey world, none of the options are fantastic, but you’ve got to buckle down and make a judgment call.
I will never take voting lightly. My voice, even though it is only one in oh-so-many, holds weight.
It was hard for me to choose. And who knows, maybe tomorrow, in the booth, I’ll change my mind. Tomorrow, I won’t tell anyone who I voted for, but I will wear my badge of honor. Because to me that little sticker declares not just that I voted, but that I grew up. That I held back my childish enthusiasm, my naiveté, and swallowed that hard pill called government.
Maybe this wasn’t what I thought 18 years of life would look like, but I’m glad I made it.
By Maria Kalaitzandonakes
This opinion piece is labeled as such on the desktop version.
I encourage all eligible voters to go and cast your votes. Also, if you haven’t registered yet, although you can’t vote today you can in the future. Please register.