It’s that time again, when overly enthusiastic strangers start speaking to you, people wander around the university in absurd costumes (read: Dinghy) and you hear the words ‘please vote’ more than the words ‘red beer’. It’s the QMSU elections! Or at least it will be, soon. And if you want to partake in this carnival of narcissism all you must do is lay your soul bare to thousands of people by nominating yourself via this link https://www.qmsu.org/elections/
Last year I ran for a sabbatical role and even without winning, the elections opened up so many opportunities for me that I never would have envisioned. I was lucky enough this year to be elected onto student council as a part-time councillor. (Two campaigns in 6 months, someone thinks a lot of themselves, don’t they?) I met a lot of wonderful people during the elections, most significantly for me, I got involved with the Greens and subsequently made invaluable friends. But the most important thing I gained from running last year, and I’m aware how sickly-sweet this sounds, is what I learnt about myself. It’s not until you’re talking to a hundred strangers a day about current issues that you come to realise what you really and truly care about. The process tested me in a way that no other has, it tested my character, my knowledge, and my ability to function on a startling lack of sleep.
A lot of people who run have a campaign team, personally, I didn’t, but what I did have was a few close friends who supported me emotionally, and trust me when I say that the latter is not only the more important but it is life-saving. Elections are emotionally and physically exhausting, If you’re running for one of the big four roles the chances are you’ll read less than positive things about yourself on social media, and hear them through the grape-vine. That’s not to say it’s even perpetrated by those you’re running against. Sadly, when you’re running in such a public way for such a public position it just happens, you open yourself up to be critiqued. It’s a hard thing to face such blatant dehumanisation of yourself and your ideas, but it’s also necessary. You’re asking thousands of people to let you represent them to the institution with which they have entrusted their money and their education and whilst sometimes those critiques can toe the line between constructive and cruel, they are realities that should be faced.
I get asked a lot if I’d recommend running. For me, it was the right decision and I’ll never regret taking the chance to talk about issues and causes I cared about. I wouldn’t recommend the process to everyone though. Unfortunately, the nature of the process makes it alienating for those with mental health issues and has in some cases exacerbated them. The process is mentally straining and your own mental health is something that should always take priority. However, the elections offer an unparalleled platform to fight for what you believe in. The sincerest feeling of pride I’ve ever experienced was knowing I had changed people’s minds. Not just about who to vote for, but about me, I saw people around me become more and more supportive after seeing how hard I had worked. There’s not much that beats that. My honest advice is this: if any part of you wants to do it, you should. Ideas are like are like 00’s pop songs, they are catchy and spread like wild-fire. During the elections, people are listening carefully to what you have to say and the power of that shouldn’t be underestimated. If you feel like you’re ready to fight, don’t let anything or anyone hold you back.
And remember, whatever happens, you do not need to win in order to be proud of yourself.
By Gemma Meredith