Tuesday, November 1, 2016

290. How this election has made me a better person

Last week, I was in Savannah, Georgia, for a National Association of Bar Executives (NABE) conference. During dinner on the first night, I talked with a fellow conference-goer, whom I had spoken with earlier. She was a NABE veteran and also from Oregon. The restaurant was inside a historic mansion and most everyone from the conference was the ballroom.There was great food, an open bar, and lively conversation. Afterwards, they had scheduled ghost tours for attendees to go on in shifts.

The woman I was speaking with said she didn’t want to go on the tour because she wanted to watch the third presidential debate. I playfully tried to convince her to go on the tour, but she wasn't changing her mind. I asked her why she wanted to watch the debate instead of enjoying a free, albeit slightly cheesy, event with some other good people, she replied, “It’s like a car wreck, I just can’t look away.” That stuck with me. I think it’s a bad sign when the most public audition for the most powerful job is compared to a car accident. I decided to go on the ghost tour instead.

Like most Americans, this election has been bumming me out. However, I’ve felt a weird sense of calm the past few weeks. I’m enjoying life in spite of every awful spin of the news cycle. Here’s how I’ve stayed sane.

I’ve realized that just because I have a platform, it doesn’t mean I need to use it. I’ve seen so many people post and tweet their anxieties, fears, hopes, and dreams about the election. While it’s good to have an outlet, I feel like writing an opinion after every new event in the world isn’t healthy. It’s actually kind of nice to just read a news story and not say anything about it. I've been using a process with the news: read, process, reflect, move on. You don't really need social media in the equation. Just because you’re not posting about something, it doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.

Along with that, I’ve realized that I’m not an expert, and I don’t need to pretend I’m one. I’m not going to change the world with a tweet, nor am I going to sway an election with just one more Facebook post about something. I’m not paid to throw out my opinions on things. Social media fools us into believing we are experts about something because we have a platform. That’s hardly the case. It’s ok to not throw out your opinion on something. I’m guessing most people won’t even notice. I feel like more people would be happy if they just stepped away for a while from social media. Again, I don't think any of my friends are being paid to post on social media on their personal accounts.

I was listening to a podcast of the show On Being with Father James Martin. He told a joke that I think is relevant to this election. There is good news and there is better news. The good news is that there is a Messiah. The better news is that it's not you. Yes, do good things, but don't expect to be perfect. You're not here to save everyone.

It’s ok to be happy in spite of all of this. I’m not naive. I know that Donald Trump is an awful person who’s enabled a cadre of racists and other nefarious individuals, and I know that Hillary Clinton has made some dumb mistakes as well. But, I can only affect so much. I can be mad and frustrated about the system, but there is also so much more. You absolutely have a right to be nervous about what's going to happen on Tuesday, but you also have a right to be happy in spite of it.

I’m a healthy twenty-something male who lives in a pretty great country. Yeah, there are problems, but if you go around worrying about them all the time, you get burned out. I realize that this is a white male perspective, but I like to hope that everyone has the ability to compartmentalize. Really, how much can do you do about this election? Not much except for vote. If you want to go knock on doors, or make phone calls, that’s on you. I did that a while ago, and I don’t want to anymore. I voted already and I’m moving on.

I’ve been listening to my emotions a lot more these past few weeks. It’s been helpful. I know when I’m upset about something. I know when I’m happy. I know that I should probably stay away from all forms of social media when my emotions are flustered. I know it's not worth it to get into arguments over social media. It’s better just to step away for a few hours and reevaluate the situation.

I know Halloween has just passed, but if you have a chance to go on a ghost tour instead of wading into the cesspool of social media, go do it.

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