First Time Voter At 42

Standing in line beside my husband, clutching my photo ID and Voter Registration in one hand and my husband’s arm in the other, I wondered what emotions I might feel as I walked back out of that building after casting my very first vote as a 42 year old woman. I reflected on my journey to reach this moment and my heart filled with pride and thankfulness. I looked up at Gregg and said, “I hope they have stickers! I want my ‘I voted’ sticker!”. He looked down at me with a dimpled grin, and said, “We’ll get you one if they have them!”. Moments later, I had cast my first ever vote, got my sticker, and walked back out of the building. Suddenly, I felt the tears stinging my eyes and an overwhelming sense of pride and elation came over me in that moment. I reached for Gregg’s strong, supportive hand and held on tight as we walked back to our car. I hopped into my seat and snapped a teary eyed picture holding my coveted “I voted” sticker and sent it to my growth coach. She has walked with and guided me through some of the hardest and most vulnerable moments of this transformational journey, and I HAD to share this with her. You know that feeling of showing your parents the A++ you got on a test because not only did you ace the test, but you got the bonus question too? That’s how I felt sending that picture to her.

THE WINDS OF CHANGE

As a young girl, I was taught to believe that it was wrong for women to vote and that our country actually went downhill once women started voting. I was also taught to believe that we, as women, were “too emotional” to be able to discern who to vote for and that we should consider our husband’s or father’s vote as him “speaking for us”. As women, our place was under man, and only he had the authority to make a sound decision, and decide who could best lead our nation. Unfortunately, I wholeheartedly believed these lies. It wasn’t until after I married my incredible husband, who doesn’t hold to these ridiculous ideals at all, that he encouraged me to exercise my right to vote. I never felt like I could or should do it. I would think on it, but in the end I was too scared I would be “doing the wrong thing”. The indoctrination that had been repeated to me over and over since my early teens had a very strong hold on me.

For the past 8-10 years though, my eyes have been opened to the horrors of these beliefs (and so much more), and just how damaging and WRONG they are. I have realized that while I had already recognized and corrected my views on many things, I needed some help and guidance sorting through other narratives and indoctrination that was still floating around inside my head. I had to move out of the echo chamber I had been forced into for so many years. With the help of my coach, I now see the value in my voice and my opinion. I also know how much my voice truly DOES matter in this world and how NEEDED it is. For the first time, I recognize how hard the women before me fought through blood, sweat and tears for my rights. Now, when I think of those suffragettes, I feel so much pride, immense respect and sincere gratitude for them. They overcame the impossible for me, my daughter and every other woman and girl in our great nation!

A NEW LEGACY

On the year of the 100th anniversary of Woman’s Suffrage, I joined millions of women, and exercised my right to vote for the very first time! My voting sticker is framed, with a hidden note for whoever may one day find it. It represents a new legacy for my family. My daughter sees that framed sticker every time she’s in my office nook. She will always remember my smile as I excitedly showed her that sticker when I bounced back into the house after voting. I’m so thankful she got to share in my excitement, and maybe one day she’ll frame her very first “I voted” sticker too.

The course of my family history was changed with that vote. All the years believing I had no voice or value to add are in the past. My daughter will always know our voices are valued, needed and to be respected. If you yourself are wondering if you have the courage to speak up and to be heard, don’t doubt yourself. It may feel scary. Your hands and voice may shake, but the world needs to hear what you have to say. The world needs everything you, in your own wonderful uniqueness, has to offer. So, climb the mountains, wander the valleys, and do whatever else it takes to find and USE your voice, because when you reach that pinnacle moment, the view will take your breath away!

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