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And in the end, the voters made the decision on Election Day, as they did across the country.

I shared in a past article that I was running for city council in my little city in the Northern Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. I’m a political neophyte, and running for office was never on my bucket list. But I ran for local office this past election, largely because it felt like the right thing to do in these often challenging times we live in.

After almost a year of focusing on one goal, there have been so many positive experiences that have filled me up and helped me along.

First, what an honor and privilege it is to run for elected office. Most people probably don’t think of it that way, but it is. Those who run for office simply can’t do it without the help of their spouse, friends and a whole host of supporters. It is truly an honor to have the confidence and backing of so many people. I don’t think anyone who runs for office can come away without utmost gratitude and awe for the support they’ve been given.

Second, it can be frightening to put your name out in the public domain, knowing that you will be watched, judged and scrutinized. Anyone who runs for office must develop an ability to “turn off” the negative noise that they will encounter from time to time, and instead, focus on the reason for running in the first place. That can be incredibly difficult, and oftentimes I wanted to quit and give up, but my love for my adopted hometown and my hope for positive change kept me going.

Third, most people are kind. Of the hundreds of conversations and meetings I’ve been involved in this year, only a few have been negative. Most people are welcoming, ready to discuss issues, and even if they disagree, are polite and respectful. The few who have been rude or aggressive are probably that way in all their interactions, and my political stance was just one more irritant in their day. I tried not to take it personally.

Fourth, as a candidate, I was forced out of my comfort zone, talked with people who are very different from me, learned about a myriad of subjects, walked through neighborhoods that were new to me, and sweat my way through the summer months, all in an attempt to make myself available to future constituents. I often questioned why I was doing this, said something stupid more than once, and looked forward to Election Day with the same nervous anticipation I felt during pregnancy.

Finally, running for office is exhilarating, exhausting, and a ton of fun. Though tough at times, it’s also incredibly exciting to learn new things, meet new people and stretch oneself in new directions. At the age of 58, it was rewarding to use my life experiences, education and brain toward realizing a new goal.

I highly encourage anyone who is thinking about running for office in the future to give it due consideration and then say “yes.” Because our town, our state and our country need citizens who are willing to jump in, challenge the status quo, highlight critical issues facing our communities and offer new ideas. You’ll come away with a better understanding of just how fortunate we are to live in a country where citizens can make their voices heard, all in the quiet of the ballot box.

And in the end, the voters in my city chose … my opponent. It’s very tough and incredibly emotional, after all that effort and energy, to lose an election. But I know myself well enough to recognize that lessons learned on the campaign trail will be used in another exciting endeavor, whatever that will be.

The best lesson overall? That I can work incredibly hard toward a goal, lose, and life still goes on in the most wonderful way.

Teri Merrill

Teri Merrill has been writing professionally since 1982. She has recently been writing for her town newspaper.

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