Combatting Cynicism at the Polls

Thus far, 2016 has been a confusing and frustrating time for American politics. For many young voters, this may be the first election that they are able to vote in. However, that does not mean these young voters are necessarily excited or willing to vote. Discussion about the corruption and bigotry backing particular presidential candidates has dominated this election. Of course, these are important conversations to have, but it is unfortunate when such disenchantment ultimately turns voters away from the polls. Already, I have heard many millennial voters insist they are not voting come November and that they are exhausted of establishment politics. I sympathize with these voices. I am a cynic as well, but in order to make the changes we seek, we must learn to fight back against our own cynicism.

Historically, young people have not been a very active voter demographic. There is a multitude of reasons for this, including voting restrictions that keep young people and marginalized groups away from the polls. But, it has also notoriously been difficult to get young people invested in politics. The younger demographic has never been keen on voting and yet, in some ways, they have the most to lose or gain in the political arena.

About a year ago, when I first turned eighteen, I was overcome with a newfound interest and enthusiasm for politics. The presidential campaign season was only just beginning. I was happy to do research on each candidate as they made themselves known in the race and I was happy to seek out political discussion online. I was also interesting in hearing the opinions of other millennial voters, particularly about issues like college debt, that relate more closely to our own generation. While it was easy enough to find compelling young voices online, it was much more difficult to get those closest to me talking.

One friend told me politics just didn’t interest her, and another informed me she avoided political discussion altogether since she wanted to stay clear of debate. Most jarring to me were the peers I came across that simply, did not believe in voting. “There’s just no point,” I remember one classmate telling me. “Our votes don’t matter. They never will.” I can understand not being keen on discussing politics, but not voting or engaging with politics because you’ve become disillusioned with the current state of the government feels counterintuitive. If we don’t even try to be heard, how can we ever expect to see change?

In these times of political uncertainty, it’s important to know that your vote does matter. Voting is not a fool-proof process, sure. With primaries and the electoral college, voting in the United States often feels convoluted and sometimes, frustrating. But voting, or at least making yourself known in the political sphere is important. Your vote still counts for something, regardless if it’s only one vote within a sea of others. As I mentioned earlier, I am cynical in a lot of ways. I am disappointed with the lack of change I have seen about the issues that matter to me. I am disappointed with the politicians that speak over those most affected by their policies. Still, I am proud to call myself a voter.

Please consider making yourself heard this November.


In Defense of Young Love

As I packed up my boxes to leave my dorm room for the summer, I felt all the usual end of the year nostalgia. Saying “goodbye” to the friends I’d begun to call family was certainly not easy. But, I also could not help but feel a wave of excitement rush over me. Of course I was happy at the prospect of no more school work or final projects to stress over, but more so I was happy at the idea that for the first time in over nine months I was going to be able to wake up each morning next to the boy I loved. This meant no more FaceTimes with roommates intruding, no more crying simply because he was so far away and no more late night fights about how much we missed each other. Finally, we would be able to return to our in person relationship, and I could not be more thrilled.

This year marked my three year anniversary with my boyfriend, John, as well as the beginning of both our first years of college. We’ve been together ever since sophomore year of high school when our chemistry as lab partners was undeniable. We held hands across the lunch table for weeks before even exchanging phone numbers. We officially became boyfriend/girlfriend after a friend asked if we were “a thing” and both of us just looked at each other and smiled. “I guess so,” was the final decision. Thus, began three years of seeing each other everyday nonstop and falling more and more silly in love. We even spent a summer living together.

However, in the fall of 2015, our college plans separated us by over three hundred miles. John attended a university in New Jersey while I chose a school in Boston. Despite the distance, we knew that we were going to continue on and make our relationship work. Though he now plans to transfer closer in the fall, we always knew that we wanted to stay together no matter what time apart or distance we may have to endure. Many people, especially “adults”, have told us to simply give up, claiming that breaking up would just be easier. Since we are young, they believe our relationship is not something worth fighting for. I have heard one too many lectures on “all the fish in the sea” to ever consider using the hackneyed phrase again. John’s own mother has infamously said that she thinks “high school relationships should stay in high school.” But, for us, from the beginning, breaking up was never an option or even a conversation.

Now, I am not going to pretend that long distance is an easy feat. There were times when the mere fact that we were physically so far apart led to fighting and mental distance. Both of us were having new experiences and changing so much in such a short period of time that we of course had to wonder if we were growing in opposite directions. Still, our relationship stood strong as we texted and FaceTimed and made room for each other even in our ever-evolving new worlds. And, guess what? It worked. Now that we are finally on the other side, I am so happy to be reunited with him.

Though we may be “high school sweethearts,” I would venture to say we’ve been through a lot together already, and our relationship is just as valid as any other despite our ages. We’ve been with each other through some of the most pivotal and life changing moments. We’ve made so many memories together and encouraged each other as we’ve grown. I feel so lucky to have had him by my side these past three years. From holding me up at my grandfather’s funeral to holding my hair back when I’m sick, John has been there for it all. There have been so many tissues and sleepless nights both good and bad. He truly knows me better than anyone else in many ways simply because he’s been there for so much.

Sadly, it is still so often assumed that our relationship’s long standing will only eventually end in tragic heartbreak and the idea that we have wasted these years together. Many family and friends wonder if we’re planning too far ahead, especially as John transfers to a school that while academically more rigorous than his current institution also happens to be geographically closer to me. They think we are too young to allow our lives to intertwine quite so deeply and to decide upon such a definite future. Although I can try and understand this concern, I am dead set on the fact that they are unbelievably wrong.

This is mainly because John is not simply my boyfriend but my best friend. He is the first person I want to go to with my problems and the first person I want to share good news with. No matter what we are doing we always manage to have fun together, we can laugh together for hours over silly things. He is the person I want by my side on my every adventure. Our favorite thing to do; get in the car and just drive. Already, we have seen so many places together from the coastline of Maine to small art museums across the North East. We have admired the Brooklyn Bridge at night and the beaches of Newport at sunrise. Our mission to see all fifty states together began the first time we took a train into Philadelphia. I can not wait to see even more and learn even more. I am so excited to continue exploring the world with him.

But, I also have made a point not to sacrifice other friendships and relationships in my life for him. I have always been a big proponent of the fact that while having a boyfriend who is your best friend is nice it is important not to make him my entire world. It is important to us both that we both have friendships and interests outside of our relationship. Thus, we share our interests, challenge each other, and celebrate the times that we can have adventures hand in hand.

Despite the fact that I am young, I am quite certain that I could never see my current relationship as anything but a benefit in my life. Even if circumstances abound and for whatever reason we go in separate directions, I can not imagine seeing our time spent together as a regret. In addition each choice that we make is ours to choose, and at the moment we are certainly quite happy with my choices. So, let us be happy. We are constantly making new memories and having new experiences because we are young, and at least at the moment we want to experience it all together. It is certainly not easy to be young and in love but, it is definitely worth it.