You always remember your first time don't you? I remember mine particularly well, because, afterwards, I felt thoroughly used and degraded by the experience.
Yes, I voted Lib Dem in the 2010 General Election. There's nothing I can do to change that fact, other than live with the burden of shame for the rest of my sentient days.
But it's a strange sensation to be heading into the 2015 General Election this May, bewildered and scared about which box to put my cross in; the time between my first vote and this next one has seen me go from being a jittery nineteen-year-old NEET, scared that university would be full of drug dealers and vegetarians (which it was, but there were alright people too), to a real adult person with an actual job and actual house to live in (obviously I don't OWN it as the only person left in this country who can still afford property is the Queen. And we pay for that.) I can reflect on this bumpy ride with a mixture of joy, relief, and mild nausea. One of the main things I know, though, is that riding out the storm of a shriveled up job market and a swelled up housing crisis is certainly in no part thanks the anything the government have done to help me.
I can recall our last General Election with a cosy sense of sentimentality, because I was so ridiculously galvanised I was practically an extra from Les Mis. I'll spare you the precise ins and outs of my personal life history, but after leaving school and deciding that my plans to become a zookeeper were probably not that well thought out, I had to take a gap year whilst I applied for a place to do that rare, sought after, highly valuable qualification that is a degree in English Literature.
And in that year, no one wanted to give me a proper job. No one even wanted to let me volunteer for them. I didn't have any money so I couldn't go travelling. I spent an extremely lonely year amusing myself by writing awful novels, baking cakes, walking my dog, and writing Facebook statuses lamenting the state of the nation that absolutely everyone wisely ignored. And if it sounds like the most middle class type of purgatory, yes, it was. But you can't underestimate how scary and isolating it feels to have the sense that you're stuck on the shelf before your life has even begun, invisible to the rest of the world no matter how many CVs you hand out or number of times you Google 'is there actually anything to do in Maidstone'.
The result of this was that the General Election swung around and I felt like everything in my entire life was at stake. I shouted at the TV, I tore things out of the paper and stuck them under the noses of bewildered people, and I fired off angry emails telling people NOT TO VOTE FOR DAVID CAMERON. Because I knew things needed to change, and I finally had a little bit of hope that maybe they would.
But they didn't and we all know what happened next and okay guys hold it together, we've all shed enough angry tears already. Nick swiveled quicker than John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever. We felt betrayed, but he kept telling us it was the right thing to do, with a solemn look on his face like he'd just been to his own cat's funeral.
Shortly afterwards I went to university, where my year of being existentially irrelevant had put the fear of God up me so assiduously that I spent every waking moment of my three years doing extracurricular activities so that my CV was more stacked than the Olympic wrestling team. And what happened when I graduated? I was poor, in debt, and an indistinguishable waif in graduate jobs market teeming with identical CVs but not so well stocked with actual jobs. I moved back home with my parents, interned for variously no pay or extremely bad pay, and gradually started to struggle to keep my normally very buoyant chin firmly in place.
But I got there in the end, and it wasn't because the government created lots of new jobs, or brought the stratospheric rent prices down, or abolished unpaid internships, or scrapped tuition fees, or invested in the regions as much as they do in London - nope.
I think I got here because people are kind: they said nice things to me, encouraged me in my writing of interminably ranty blogs, sent me messages to tell me to keep going when they really didn't have to. They passed job adverts my way. They let me shout at them about feminism in the pub and told me being passionate was good rather than grounds for a restraining order. There were colleagues who gave me their advice when they could have marked my emails as spam. There were the people who made me feel safe moving to London by myself even though I am basically a child in a twenty-four-year-old's body. There were the family members who talked me through it when things were tough and wouldn't accept my nonsense. And the ones who helped me move house and built me a bookshelf so I finally had somewhere to put my extensive volumes of militant communist propaganda.
Of course I'm concerned that I haven't yet found a suitably agreeable privately educated white man to throw my weight behind. But at least, second time round, I know that real people are awesome and can be relied upon, even if politicians can't - and its not been scientifically proven that they're real people yet anyway.