How to Be a Politically Open Twenty-Something

Photo courtesy of Joanna Penn / flickr.
Photo courtesy of Joanna Penn / flickr.

Politics. It’s an election year and it’s an even hotter button topic than usual. When we’re young we all absorb some amount of our parents’ political beliefs, but hopefully as we grow and mature our beliefs become our own. I was raised in an interesting environment.

Full disclosure – my parents divorced when I was very young, both parents remarried, but I grew up mostly at my Mom’s. My Dad is basically a libertarian. My step-mom is a bit of a black hole for me, even after ten years I still am not sure where she stands on a lot of things but her favorite color is red so there’s that, I guess. My Mom is a “light conservative” with liberal leaning roots. I have a feeling her political views are a bit of a rebellion from her bra- burning-ex- hippie mother, my Grandmother, who I spent most of my free time with in my younger years. On the opposite end of the spectrum, my Grandpa is a staunch Republican. As one might imagine, family gatherings can get quite heated.

Growing up I had no real idea what my political leanings or ideals were. Occasionally I repeated something I heard a family member say, but it was mostly to get a rise out of someone (I was a bit of an instigator). Even in High School politics was a bit of a wash for me. Yes, I felt this way or that way about certain topics but I didn’t really have a definition of what I was. I was a hodgepodge of iffy-ness. It wasn’t until college that I really began to fully understand, claim, and share who I am – politically speaking. College opened up a whole new world to me. I became friends and colleagues with a diverse group of people. I began to see glimpses of lives I would never lead; some were wonderful while others were…not. I felt the sting of adversity and for the first time knew exactly what to call it. A greater burn was realizing that, as a straight/white/woman, I would not even know the half of it.

A few months into my first semester I got my first bill and cried. There was more money on the “balance due” line than I had seen in my entire life. I watched the money signs fly out of my bank account. As the years went on I was living off campus, paying more of my own bills, I had met even more people from different backgrounds with different views. I went to rallies and read more news articles. I was immersing myself in the world and forming my own thoughts and feelings. I was finding myself – politically speaking. I voted for the first time and I felt the power. Here we are again, another election year, another conglomerate of candidates, but this year is different for me. I have never been more confident in who I am or what I stand for – politically speaking. I have also never before been so enraged or impassioned as I have been by this year’s political race. I think that can be said across the board. It’s an important year. The impacts of which, I will be feeling full force for the next four years.

Blame it on my bra-burning- ex-hippie Grandma but I refuse to sit idly by and let my life be altered by someone I don’t believe in or someone I can’t stand. And the truth is, I’m sure, many other Americans feel the same on either side of the isle. It’s a beautiful thing in some respects that we are feeling so strongly. But before we break out the harsh words or the insults, instead of shouting at each other that the other side is wrong, listening might do us some good. Maybe that’s what political maturity is all about. Taking the time to understand where the other side comes from. What were their life experiences vs. our own? How can they help me and how can I help them?

Blame it on my bra-burning- ex- hippie Grandma but I refuse to think that we can find no common ground. After all you can’t make the call in a coin toss until you’ve seen both sides of the coin, And after all our political identity comes from what shapes us. As my experiences changed so did my political views. Ask for me in twenty years and you might find me a little more right wing than I am now. Then again, maybe not.



Maddy wrote this piece for Flux, a forum for those of us encountering adulthood. She is a recent college grad trying to find her way in the real world. Maddy started writing a blog to help herself cope with her underwhelming success and her overwhelming stress. She currently live with her boyfriend in Grand Rapids, MI. Maddy is a terrible cook but speaks fluent French, so there’s a bit of a trade off. She lives for days at the beach, farmer’s markets, coffee and just barely cool clothing.


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