Living Life in Election Cycles

Do you know what today is?

Today marks 20 days until Election Day.

This is the sole significance of today, October 18th, to thousands of people throughout the United States. For political operatives, legislative staff, and the candidates themselves, it's as if life after November 8th doesn't exist. The days leading up to the grand finale are fully owned by the task at hand. The day after is contemplated with trepidatious fantasy. Living within the confines of an election cycle, discussions of the future begin with the cautious caveat "if we win" and finally cleaning the house or starting a diet are the only plans made with certainty. The day after Election Day is otherworldly, like the afterlife, where no one knows quite what to expect because it all hinges on the outcome of that single day. 

Though the world won't end based on an election outcome, it will certainly feel that way for some, and it will definitely alter the course of many people's careers. While choosing a career with this kind of inherent instability may seem absurd, so many people continue to willingly commit themselves to it, year after year, despite countless reasons not to.

It's a paradoxically maddening but addictive existence – disappearing from our regular lives for months at a time and succumbing to the "feast or famine" nature of this work. The same concept applies to working a legislative session in Texas, where lawmakers and support staff do a 140 day (and often night) lawmaking dash and spend the rest of the 19 month biennium in the purgatory of the interim.

When the Texas Legislature is in session, work-life balance is term without meaning. It is not uncommon to work 80 plus hour workweeks, and still be behind. Preparation for committee hearings, stakeholder meetings, constituent correspondence, and bill drafts fill our brains, leaving room for little else. We sacrifice our personal lives – time with family, hobbies, and other life enriching activities – for the gratification of being a part of something meaningful. We laugh with each other about how bizarre our lives are and how our friends with normal jobs think we're nuts. We struggle with missing our kids' soccer games, church events, and evenings with friends. Like addicts, we make pacts with ourselves to quit after just one more session. But then, as we stare bleary eyed into television screens blaring a committee hearing at 11 p.m. on a Wednesday night in April, we admit to ourselves this is exactly where we want to be. 

This line of work is polarizing, either you can't imagine doing anything else, or you'd rather wash dishes. For those who can't live without it, here's to you. I hope your sacrifice is worthwhile and that your work makes you proud. No matter the outcome on November 8th (or May 29th), know that you've made a difference and you're part of what makes this nation special.