Dear 18 Year Old Me,
I am writing you from 17 years in your future. No, we don’t have flying cars or colonies on the moon. We still don’t have a Stanley Cup champion in Toronto either, but did you really expect that to change?
Most people would still consider us pretty young at this age, but I have learned a lot from the time I was you.
Happy 18th Birthday! You are finally an adult! The world is your oyster. The only problem is this new freedom comes with a lot of responsibility.
For one, you are now citizen who is able to fully participate in the political process, and have a say about how your municipality, province and country are run. At the time you are reading this, civic engagement in Canada is on a steady decline, especially for young people. Unfortunately it doesn’t get any better anytime soon. People are voting less and less because they don’t believe their vote has any impact.
The thing about our political system is that it is a two way street. Governments only serve the people effectively when you have an engaged citizenry, who is educated about what the parties stand for, make demands of people running for office, and hold them to account when they don’t meet them. Parties and governments respond to the people when they know it means the difference between being elected and not.
And having a government in office that represents your values is important not just for you, but for your family as well. Spoiler alert, we have three kids and they are really the best part of our day. You owe it to them to be a good example.
So my advice to you is this: make voting a habit. Do it every chance you get. And don’t just show up on voting day and check a box. Learn about the people running for office and make sure when you mark that X in the voting booth, you are making an informed decision. You may not realize how important it is now, but having someone represent you in public office that you didn’t support, when you didn’t have your say, is something you don’t want to go through. And when you give up your right to vote, you give up your right to complain.
One last thing, when you get to university, remember to go over and talk to the blond girl in the Winnipeg Jets t-shirt in the student lounge. You will be glad that you did.
35 Year Old You