I cannot believe this is my last night here in Georgia. People back home told me the time would fly by. I did not realize just how quickly that time would pass. I think back to my first night in Georgia and I cannot help but compare it to this night. I arrived in Atlanta dehydrated, exhausted, abandoned at a MARTA station, and unfamiliar with the area. I was anxious about meeting my supporter housing and wary of the upcoming training—anxious about a thousand small details. I remember collapsing into bed and listening to the thick chorus of crickets, already struggling to breathe as my sinuses rejected the different, Georgia air. I was worried. I was overwhelmed. I was in a strange town with strangers.
I am now in a completely different house than the one I first moved into. After some reshuffling during the first week, I came to live with Matie and her husband. I fall asleep on a folded-up futon, and I still hear the crickets outside my window. But I am no longer a stranger. I have met hundreds of people over the past six weeks and developed good relationships with several of them. I have been responsible for a specific city and have organized the communities and neighborhoods within. I’ve been to every corner of Gwinnett—from Between, Georgia to the edge of Stone Mountain/Dekalb. I helped staff a town hall event, where Senator Obama spoke to 2,000 people. I’ve ridden MARTA up and down the lines, registering people to vote. I have been forced to grow and stretch. Never mind stepping out of one’s comfort zone- I have had to jump and leap out of my comfort zone on a daily basis. After a while the phone calls began to get easier. The prospect of speaking at a house meeting became less frightening and far more exciting. I discovered a kind of resilient confidence – a confidence that continued to grow even as I met brick wall after brick wall. Now, six weeks later, I leave Georgia with a sense of accomplishment, of great personal growth.
But enough about me. The best part of this experience has been the people. My team is one of the most diverse and colorful groups in both personality and background. We have texture, flavor. There is Matie. A New Orleans-native and high school government teacher, Matie has been my closest friend here in Georgia. During our third week, the two of us were dubbed “the dynamic duo,” as we have been inseparable. We’ve spent many late nights entering data at our makeshift office in her living room, alternately sipping wine and coffee. We have hopped clubs for voter registration, created “Wanna Vote?” t-shirts on a whim at midnight, accidentally crashed a staff “hang-out” session downtown Atlanta, debated issues of politics, education and race, and celebrated the end of good weeks with amaretto sours. We witnessed one another’s breakdowns, giggled at early-morning radio en route to the office, and listened to each other when our frustration level was about to exceed its limits. Matie has been an inspiration and constant encouragement these past six weeks, and it will be strange for her presence to suddenly be absent as I board the plane tomorrow.
Then there is John—the most enthusiastic, fired up person on our team. He’s a pastor, and it’s evident in the way he is able to welcome new people and encourage them to join the campaign efforts. This guy has no inhibitions and will take his “Register to Vote Here” sign with him to parks, MARTA stations, churches, bars, Wal-Marts, restaurants…so much enthusiasm can be overwhelming. But we have Jacob to balance things out. Reserved and quiet, Jacob has been the organizer behind the scenes. He’s often silent and off working by himself, but his quirky sense of humor occasionally surfaces – usually in the middle of a team meeting. With a generous spirit and diplomatic air, Jacob has smoothed situations that could have easily turned ugly.
Nick is the fifth fellow on my team to remain with the program to the very end. The youngest at 20, Nick has aspirations of becoming a music journalist and absentmindedly sings throughout the day. He’s our traveling jukebox, covering the latest hip hop, classic rock, and even country. The best part about Nick is his easy smile and the way in which he can lighten any situation.
Any finally, there is Dan – our fearless leader. He’s from upstate New York and paces through the office halls with a golf club in hand whenever he’s stressed. Or planning our next big event. I’m going to miss Dan’s random humor, his quotes of the day, his idiosyncrasies—like the way in which he tosses a racquetball back and forth during conversations and planning sessions.
I haven’t even mentioned the other field organizers or the all-star volunteers: Tawny, Kevin, Olivia, Cathy, Robin, Mark, Joy, Vin, and Danja, to name a few. This experience would not have been the same without them, which I suppose can be said of any adventure and the people met along the way. To continue to write about my reflections would constitute an out-an-out novel (and I’m not exaggerating). I do have one more entry which I’ll post before I board my plane tomorrow. I’m saving it because, well, it’s worth having its own entry. Other than that…I’m finished in Georgia for the time being. In the words of an anonymous radio caller back in Portland, “It’s been epic. Totally epic.”