I am the kind of person who is always prepared. Seriously, you should see my office closet: I have a pinstripe suit, a casual blazer, a ballgown, 3 pairs of shoes with different heel heights, and multiple pairs of socks. I can look good for whatever my job or social life throws at me. If I’m this prepared in my everyday life, you can imagine how prepared I was for election night all those years ago (note: I’m old) when I was hoping it would be my name that topped the ballot.
Back in 2008 I ran to be the Vice President Internal at the Dalhousie Student Union. I was running against a good guy and we had an amicable race which was saying a lot for that election cycle where we had two sitting VPs running against each other for the presidency. I had been urged to run for the, at that time, VP Education position but I didn’t want to lobby governments as I thought it would be boring (little did I know that four years later I would do external advocacy for the Dal Grad society and really enjoy it). For once I picked not the position I probably had a great shot at winning, but the position I thought I wanted to do the most. I was being true to myself and it bit me in the butt.
I think my subconscious knew well before anyone else that the election wasn’t going to go my way and maybe that’s why I applied for a term at a school in the south of France. When the election hit full swing I had already been accepted but hadn’t confirmed my attendance as I was pretending to be confident I would win and therefore couldn’t attend that year.
On election night the bartenders gave me an empty pitcher so I could have something to puke into instead of being in the bathroom and missing the results due to my nerves. I sat with good friends who were rooting for me and had specifically asked a non-Dal friend to come and make sure that whatever happened I would keep my dignity. Thank god he was there! I lost by 26 votes – enough that it was decisive for me to accept that I wasn’t the right choice for the DSU but not so much that my pride was injured. However, I started bawling my eyes out. One of the past DSU presidents came by and told me better things would come my way as he squeezed my shoulder but in the moment, my world crumbled around me. Trusty non-Dal friend was watching where the Dal Gazette reporters were in the room and decided that I would hate whatever interview I gave that night so he took me out through the kitchen and past the victorious VP candidate, now President-elect, popping champagne in the SUB lobby. I was taken home, given a shot of rum, and left to wallow. But my subconscious didn’t let that happen for long.
I immediately accepted the offer for the French school, booked my flights, and began planning what I would do during my weekends. In the morning a Gazette reporter had rustled up my cell number and called me for an interview. I think I gave a pretty good interview where I didn’t come off looking like a bad loser. And I had the best answer to her question of what I was going to do now I’d lost: I was going to school in France! When the paper came out I actually read the story of the VP Internal race with my winning opponent. When I came back from France and started my MA at Dal it was my opponent that hired me back to the DSU Council. It paid to not burn bridges in the heat of the moment of losing.
What’s the point of this weird story? Always be prepared, always have a Plan B. If you have something lined up that is just as good as doing whatever job you’ve fought to get, it is that much easier to have dignity in your loss and be able to hold your head up. The SU world is tiny and people have long memories. It served me well that I was gracious in the aftermath. Plus, I am a firm believer that things happen for a reason. Just because it’s hard to see it in the moment the losers almost always have a good, if not better, life afterwards than those that stick around. Everyone that runs in a SU election are hard working, driven people. The ones that don’t have to stay around another year take that drive and make awesome lives. Take comfort in the fact that you have the abilities to make your life great and you get a year’s head start on your opponent. University lasts only so long, real life lasts until you die.
So, moral of the story:
– Have a Plan B
– If you’re a crier get the hell out of there before the student paper finds you
– Lose with dignity
– Go and make an awesome life for yourself that the winners can only wish they had.
Good luck to all the candidates!