Nearly two years ago today I lost my election for state representative by just 6 votes on Election Day. By the time absentee votes were counted we had lost by less than two hundred votes. I felt like I had been hit by a bus. All that work, all those people who gave me their hard earned money – over 600 grassroots donors from across the country, and my team. My AMAZING volunteers and staff who worked for damn near free (I pretty much paid them with pizza and bagels). I had let all of them all down.
As I write this, election results are still rolling in and candidates and their supporters across the country are on pins and needles anxiously awaiting returns. Even though I wasn’t running for state representative today (I was on the ballot as a Precinct Delegate) I felt like I was. The moment I walked into that gym I was immediately transported back in time to August 5th, 2014. It was pouring down raining and I was wearing my Detroit Tigers baseball cap, a Tigers zip up and my prized walking shoes.
I had knocked on thousands of doors in those shoes. They had been a reminder of every single block we walked and the thousands of people we talked to. With the déjà vu of being in the gym where I vote also came that feeling in the pit of my stomach that something wasn’t right. After I left my polling location I went to every other precinct in the district and saw the same thing: there was nobody there. Turnout was an abysmal 6%.
Fast forward to tonight. Just like two years ago, all night I’ve been feverishly refreshing the election results (I’ve got 5 windows open and I’m on my 3rd can of Pepsi of the night). Side note: I’ve never been into sports but now I TOTALLY get how people go apeshit when their team wins. With over a dozen friends on the ballot I am rooting for every single one of them as if I were the one running. While I’m a believer in miracles one thing I know for sure is that not everyone will win tonight. Now that I’ve had two years to salve the wounds of a loss here’s what I’d say to my 2014 former self and to every other candidate who lost tonight:
SIX: In the words of Detroit’s now infamous former Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, “This is a setup for a comeback”: God/the universe has something bigger and better in store that you haven’t event dreamt of yet. Mark my words. Had I not lost my election I wouldn’t have discovered what I was really passionate about: helping elect more black women to run for office. I also became the Executive Director of a grassroots organization that fights for economic and social justice in Detroit – doing the EXACT work that I’d hoped to do as a state representative – if not more. Now I have the ability to work across the entire city, not just in one district.
FIVE: Give yourself permission to disconnect from the world: Turn off your phone. Check into a hotel (or go somewhere other than your house) and sleep. And eat good food. Watch a funny movie. Or just be alone. My dad passed away a week before Election Day so I was mourning twice the loss. I went off the grid for 3 days and it was amazing. If you have kids or other responsibilities this is the best time to let people know what you need.
FOUR: Embrace the love that is waiting for you: When I emerged from my bed it felt like thousands of people were wrapping their arms around me from all across the country. All of the voicemails, emails, texts and cards that awaited me proved that I wasn’t on this journey alone and that I hadn’t let my supporters down. In fact, I had inspired them. People called to pledge money for my next race and even offered to help fund a recount. These folks had my back.
THREE: Don’t make any sudden moves: No matter what, don’t make any major life decisions for AT LEAST 6 months. It’s waaaay too early to even think about running again or not. It will be hard but I promise that “this too shall pass”. Had I made any sudden moves I’d be living in Denver (no joke) or would have submitted my name for a vacancy to our city council. Hell, I would have moved literally one block over to run in a district that had an open seat in 2016. None of those decisions were in alignment with my purpose and I know I would have regretted not going after what I really wanted, which is to be a state representative and to represent the neighborhood I grew up in.
TWO: Be kind to yourself: It’s soooo hard to take care of yourself when you’re running for office. My daily diet on the campaign trail consisted of pizza, bagels and Pepsi (that was literally my reward for finishing my walk list for the day). I was eating my feelings and gained a ton of weight. It’s taken me nearly two years to challenge myself to eat food that actually makes me feel good. Whatever your vice (for years I’ve struggled with emotional eating) now’s the time to call it out to yourself and make better choices.
ONE: Don’t be afraid to dream again: Since I was 19 years old I have dreamed of running for office someday. It was the biggest dream of my life and just like that it was over. After losing my election I was practically afraid of my own shadow! I questioned every single decision and was afraid to do anything that remotely challenged me. There was no room to dream. I was a broken, fragile version of myself and when I think back to that time what I know was missing was my ability to dream. It took some time but the dreams I have for my life now are soooo much grander than anything I’ve ever imagined back then. And like magic, they are coming to fruition. For years I would say that I dreamt of running for office. After the election it occurred to me that I never said I’d win. If I was really being honest with myself I did exactly what I set out to do.
The past two years have been rough but with time, love from my awesome family, friends, and partner (and the help of my rockstar therapist) I’m finally feeling like myself again and am ready to take on the world. And am dreaming bigger dreams than ever before.
Now I want to hear from you.
P.S. If you’re a former or current candidate struggling to figure out your next best step click HERE to schedule a free 30 minute Clarity Call with me!