Unsure of where I was supposed to be, I shuffled through the crowded lobby of my freshman year dorm and approached a wide desk. A harried-looking woman sat there and as I approached she spoke to me without even looking up. “Last name?” she asked.
“Quenneville,” I said. “With a Q.”
She looked up, not needing to reference the stacks of paper that were spread across her desk to tell me that I was in the wrong place. But, despite the fact that she seemed utterly exasperated, most likely as a result of having spent the entirety of her day dealing with idiots such as myself, she pointed me in the proper direction.
A handful of minutes later, after a brief stint in a quickly-moving line and an even briefer time in a small, curtained booth, I had voted in a presidential election for the first time. In that moment I felt empowered. But it was a short-lived feeling that was eventually dampened by the result: The candidate I voted for (John Kerry) lost the election.
Because I felt like my vote didn’t matter, I used flimsy excuses to justify my failure to vote in a series of local, state and federal elections. (My most common excuse was that I had just moved and didn’t have the time or know-how required to register to vote from my new address. I did move a lot over those years. But that’s an idiotic, and factually inaccurate, rationale.) That failure—which was quickly remedied once I started following politics about five years ago and saw how badly the country needs engaged, voting citizens—remains a great source of shame.
Don’t be the idiot that I was. Voting (and registering to vote) is easy and your vote actually does matter, quite a lot as it were, even if who or what you vote for doesn’t win. So get out there tomorrow and vote. Spend a few minutes in line or in a small, curtained booth. Future You will be proud.