The past month or so I have been preparing for the Student Union elections which I was running in, culminating last week in voting week. I had originally planned to still write a post, but in between being out from 8am every day, walking around campus talking to students to try and gain their vote, and not getting to bed most nights until 1/2am as I was preparing things for the next day, it just didn’t happen. First of all I was annoyed that I hadn’t managed to keep up with other things, but then I realised that I was putting all my energy into this election for a reason. I am passionate about it, and I wanted it so much that I was willing to place it above other priorities in order to know that I had done my best no matter what the result.
I came in fourth for the position I was running for; Campaigns and Welfare officer, but I beat the previous record of number of votes for an independent candidate, and also gained so much during the process. Realistically I knew the chances of me getting in were slim to none; I was running on my own against large teams with helpers and shiny, slick promo materials. However that didn’t mean I was going to give up. I shared my passion, energy and enthusiasm, as well as my story, with so many people, and I left every conversation I had last week with a smile. Even if they didn’t vote, or they didn’t vote for me, I had connected with them in some way, and I could tell that other picked up on my energy. They say a smile can make someone’s day, and I told every single person I spoke to ‘have a good day’ with a smile on my face. Someone said to me last week that every single vote I get is a win, and in that case I got 166 wins!
Aside from that, I have also gained so much confidence from the process. Anyone who knowns me personally will know that whilst I’m outwardly energetic and loud, I can often be crippled by my self esteem (or lack thereof). Elections forced me to step outside of my comfort zone, talk to hundreds of complete strangers, and keep positive no matter what their response. I also delivered two speeches during the hustings, something which caused me to visibly shake and almost hyperventilate. However I gave my first speech, and felt a little better having done it once. When it came to the second, three days later, I did something scary, but liberating. We were told we had to cut down from the original three minutes we’d had before to just two, due to the amount of people expected. I spent a couple of hours rewriting and going over my speech the night before, and sat waiting for my turn nervously. However when I stood up in front of everyone there, I realised that I didn’t need to read from a piece of paper. The things I was standing for, the messages I was championing were all in my heart, and I knew that just talking about them would connect with people more than tripping over a perfectly constructed sentence because I’d lost my place on the page. That speech was the best speech I’ve ever given, and afterwards I felt so energised, excited, and also proud of myself. The nerves were all gone, replaced with the fire which had caused me to sign up for the election in the first place. That was the turning point where instead of feeling daunted at what I was up against; the big teams and the thousands of disinterested students, I was excited to take part, and willing to go all in to reach out to others and hopefully get some votes.
I can honestly say that the last week was the most exhausting, emotional and intense week of my life so far, but it was also fun, challenging, inspiring and motivating. I spend so much time feeling like I’m not good enough at things, that I’m never going to get anywhere because I don’t do enough or follow through on things I want to do. This month has shown me just what I can achieve if I put my mind to it and commit. I may not have won, but the fact that I tried, against the odds, and put so much into the campaign proves to me that I have the fight and the determination to go for what I want. I’ve made friends, I’ve strengthened existing friendships, and reached out to strangers. I want to thank each and every one of my friends for supporting me in this, especially to Adam (J), James, Serena, Anthony and Adam (C) for coming out on the campaign trail, making promotional materials for me and generally letting me rant to them about anything elections! To all of the students I talked to, thank you for taking the time to listen, even if you didn’t vote for me. To everyone who did vote for me, you have each given me a little bit of confidence! And lastly thank you to all the other candidates who I got to know over the course of the elections. We all did brilliantly guys, and I’m happy to call some of you friends now!
These elections were not just about winning or losing, they have truly been transformative, and I would do it all over again given the chance (though maybe after a rest!)