In the spring of 1992 (note: Spring used to be an annual event), I was elected Fundraiser of York Mills Collegiate Institute in Toronto. Mine was an overwhelming victory. Five elected spots were available on our high school student council and Fundraiser was the only position being contested by more than two candidates (three). School President sounded like a ton of work and Vice President was equally laborious without the implied glory. Treasurer was akin to an actual job with spreadsheets and bankbooks and having to interact with grown-ups. Great preparation if you intended to be an estimable community member, an outcome to which I was reluctant.
The remaining positions were Social Convenor and Fundraiser. In this age of social media, the former would be a position of consequence, but back then seemed best left to my buddy Andrew Merkur who liked the sound of it, largely I imagine, because it appeared fun and purposeless.
Fundraiser, yes, that would be my landing spot. I could oversee all manner of bake sale and car wash, while taking control of Y.M. Rocks, our renowned battle of the bands.
The afternoon of election speeches soon arrived. The entire school -- those who hadn't the good sense to skip -- crammed into the cafe-gym-atorium. When my turn on stage was announced, I sauntered up, shoulder-length locks curled and tangled, jean vest fashionably small and tattered, harmonica in hand. I perched myself on a lonely stool, tossing a ballcap in front of me. The crowd gazed in wide wonder. I brought the harmonica to my lips.
I wailed and chortled, bereft of actual talent, stretching and pulling notes, protected by the fixed-key safety net of my plastic instrument. From the huddled masses, emerged a girl, who tentatively walked towards my hat, paused, then dropped a dollar inside. Within moments, dozens more would stagger past, dropping quarters and pennies and whatever else I had dispersed from my wallet earlier that day. When the crowd subsided, I finished my solo, wiped the spittle from my lips, and leaned into the microphone.
"If I can raise this much money in two minutes, just think what I could do in a whole year."
As if having sung the praises of the San Dimas high school football team, the voters roared. Sometimes I fear I will spend my entire life trying to return to that moment.
Am I too young to give up? Am I too old to keep trying?
I find myself at an age, 38, where so many of life's offerings wobble back and forth between those questions. Feeling attached to my twenties, much of my self-worth is still tied to being attractive or youthful or vigorous. At conflict, I have cultivated some success, and now recognize the comic failure in deifying everything youthful -- the glorification of smooth-skinned dumbness.
For many of life's ambitions, I find it hard to discern which angle to apply. Am I too young to give up on a career as an author of significance? If I research the freshman works of those I admire, the answer does not soothe. Am I too old to try my hand at crafting juvenile, cynical volumes which might amuse? I hope not, as I'm going to need some motivation to make it through the coming years.
What is elastic will become brittle. Of this I am sure. But so what? From my weighing, I have arrived at a decision. It cannot be avoided. It is time to be bold.
My dreams of basketball stardom died when I was born to lovely parents of average heights and creaky backs, though it took until only a few months ago for me to fully realize it. But my safety valves of wit and hubris, wisdom and imagination, the crutches I've propped my pockmarked personality upon, they channel deeply. My mottled and confusing clump of skills, best set in service of those around me and my community, are crying out for me to contend.
I find myself too young to give up, when the nature of who I could be is finally revealing itself in a way I can interpret (and which doesn't entirely horrify me). My capacity for leadership, diplomacy and frankness have the potential for good effect in my city, which I hold so dear. At the very least, caricaturists would have a field day with my profile.
Am I too young to fulfill my urge to participate? No. Am I too old to attempt something remarkable, or at the very least, ridiculous? No.
Then that is it, dear reader. It is settled.
I will run for Mayor of Toronto.
(Campaign managers please apply below.)
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