I recall that, when I was about 12, a family friend, Paula Z., asked me what age I was looking forward to. “Eighteen,” I said. Paula’s eyebrows seemed to raise a bit in surprise. I wondered, then and now, if she was expecting another answer.
“Why eighteen?” she asked.
Because, by 18, I reasoned, I would be able to both drive and vote. In my child’s view, both of those signified adulthood, vehicles for participating in the wider world: of work, and of citizenship.
I recall, too, driving myself to the tiny Town Clerk’s office when I turned 18 and proudly filling out my voter registration card. I don’t think I’ve missed an election since; when I was in college, I dutifully got my absentee ballots and voted in the college’s post office, for some reason.
And talk about dutiful: over the years, the act of voting, but for a blip in ’92, has often felt like an obligation to me, something you do because you have to. I kept doing it, more out of habit than pleasure.
Today, though, I feel as forward-looking and civic-minded as I did at 12, or at 18, and enlarged in spirit by my participation in democracy’s central act. I’m tired, but happy pop songs are playing in my head, and I’m energized and giddy too. The adult me and child me, in one.
And now, Mr. Obama, bring on the work. I suppose it’s time to turn the feeling into action.