By Alicia Gurdus ’09, assistant director of annual giving
How do you know you made the right choice when you cast your vote in an election? Four years ago, my life was in a different place. I barely slept, ate junk food for every meal, and worked 18 hours a day as a Field Organizer in Lebanon and Dauphin Counties. I was in college, full of energy and drive, and determined to add my stitching to the quilt of political history in a tangible way. I became enamored and inspired in a breathtaking way by politics and the concept of the American dream.
In early 2008, I began to volunteer, transitioned into an internship, and by the beginning of fall had garnered full-time employment as a Field Organizer on the Obama Campaign in Pennsylvania. Field work is no easy task, and after dedicating 110% of my heart and soul to it, I’m not afraid to tell it like it is. There is no time for rest on a campaign. There is also no time for the following: fun, BS, crying, illness, breathing deep breaths, eating well, having friends, or watching TV. I’m serious. Does that sound like something a college student would willingly do if she didn’t believe in what she was promoting? I didn’t think so.
So where am I now? What happens to grassroots campaign workers after Election Day? What happens to them four years later? Some of us jump right back in. Some of us never leave. Some of us jump ship, return to the world of the living, breathing, sleeping-at-normal-hours-and-never-worrying-about-poll-numbers-again American people and never look back. That’s me.
Do I regret my decision to dedicate myself completely in 2008? No! It was the most deeply life-changing experience of my life. I grew up on that campaign. I became who I am today. I have GREAT stories. I ate raw eggs to get someone to volunteer for me one time, and that’s just the tip of the crazy iceberg. I kid you not.
No one ever said all the hope and change you’ve dreamed of can happen overnight. Or in four years. No one can perfectly map the schedule of future events. But I can say, truthfully, that my life is better now than it was four years ago. President Obama extending tax cuts to the middle class affected me directly, keeping more money in my pocket. The $787 billion stimulus bill that President Barack Obama signed into law in 2009 helped me purchase a home instead of continuing to rent by providing the first-time homebuyers tax credit. Imagine the joy of a 22-year-old purchasing her first home AND getting $8,000 back. Bam. Today, I still own my home, where I am living happily ever after with my fiancé (who I met just three days after to 2008 election!), our two pugs, Ozzie and Yogi, and our cat, SubZero. I’m invested in my community, succeeding in a job that I love based on the skills I learning on political campaigns, and enjoying my own little slice of the pie in GrownUpWorld.
Could I dedicate that time again? No. My life is different now, changed for the better. But in that moment in time, I had the chance to give my all for a dream and a belief in something bigger than myself, and I loved every crazy, crying, laughing, oh-my-God-why-do-I-do-this-to-myself moment. Does that change the depth and meaning of my conviction and belief in my President because I can’t do it again this time around? Not one bit. He’s got me hook, line, and sinker after all the positive changes I’ve experienced. Yes, I am better off than I was four years ago. I made the right decision for me in 2008, and I’ll be making the same again this Fall.