I used to run cross-country, and one of the goals my team had was to “leave your guts on the field.” Sometimes this was quite literal as runners crossed the finish line and immediately threw up whatever was unfortunate enough to be in their stomachs. You give your everything in such a race, and by the finish, your body is exhausted to the point of utter collapse, your brain fried after pre-race visualization and gritty, mental determination of completing the 5K. Complete body-and-mind fatigue.
That how I feel right now. The training for the Obama Fellowship was not a joke. Up at six each morning and not getting sleep before midnight, the past three days have been filled with intensive organizing training, relationship and team building, voter registration, and planning. It was a political version of boot camp. And this is just the beginning. Despite the exhaustion, the entire weekend has been exciting. It’s both inspiring and energizing to sit in an auditorium with 200+ volunteers, all passionate and committed to the same thing. Despite the vast differences of backgrounds, life experiences, personalities, and leadership styles, everyone involved is united behind a common purpose, driven by a common goal and hope.
I must say that my adventure in Georgia had a rather rocky start. To provide a little flavor of my first 48 hours…Because I flew out of Seattle, I had to leave at 2 a.m. to get to the airport in time for my early EARLY morning flight. I discovered at check-in that my suitcase was seven pounds too heavy (despite having checked the weight at my house earlier and being fine), so out came one of my books, conditioner, and some clothes. Once I actually arrived in Atlanta, I found MARTA (Atlanta’s rail system…think Portland’s MAX but more confusing, crowded, and the longest voice-speaker announcements in the history of public transportation) and waited for over an hour for my host mom to pick me up. I felt more than a little conspicuous with my luggage and crazy-pale Pacific Northwest skin sitting on the curb at an Atlanta train station. I finally got to my host’s home – her name is Millie – and we sat on her deck and ate oranges from the nearby international produce market. Travel-weary, I went to set my alarm on my phone that night and observed that not only was my battery low but my phone charger had broken en route to Atlanta. Organizer’s nightmare right there. Your phone is your best friend. Mine was dying, and I had no car to quickly drive to pick up a new charger. And the next day was the first of training. Twelve full hours, 7 sessions of new information. Overwhelmed is a gross understatement.
However, the people make it all worth it. During voter registration on the second day, one of my teammates and I encountered a street musician at Piedmont Park, whose entire face lit up when he learned that, despite his prior felony, he was able to vote. People with prior convictions are able to vote in Georgia as long as they have completed their parole and any fines/comm. service, but the state does not advertise that fact. The state tries to soft pedal this information, which is wrong on so many levels. The musician believed that he was not allowed to vote for several more years. It was rewarding to watch him fill out his voter registration form as one of his civic rights was returned to him. Episodes like that reinforce the importance of what I’m doing here in Georgia and make the long days and fried brain cells worth it.
So many other stories happened the past three days, but more work is waiting to be done. Peace out.