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).
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.