While the smell of champagne continues to linger around flutes everywhere, I doubt President-elect Barack Obama has had much to drink himself. Nor would I blame him, considering what’s awaiting him up until the inauguration.

On Nov. 4, the United States elected a candidate whose indefatigable campaign slapped away challenges with near-perfect grace. With luck, he and his staff will bring that same deftness to the White House and, with more luck, the United States will not only move forward, but make real strides as well.

But whatever joy for such a possibility Obama’s election brings to the nation (or at least the 63,685,576 known voters for Barack Obama), we are also left with a vacuum. For over two years, we’ve watched and waited and, in time, gotten involved, pinning our hearts and souls on not only Tuesday night’s winner or Senator John McCain, but also the myriad other candidates, from Governor Bill Richardson to Bob Barr to Mitt Romney. As Vice President-elect Joe Biden would say, there were literally thousands literally thousands of volunteers and aides, and now there’s nothing left, save for a few of them. The media built entirely new systems dedicated to capturing as many aspects of the campaigns as possible, which are now almost entirely defunct. Political junkies admittedly, I have been one of the worst have nothing to feed off of now except Congress (apparently, they’re still relevant).

Now what? Where do all these people, so impassioned in their pursuits, turn to in order to fill the void left behind by this election? Each will undoubtedly find his or her own, wonderful outlets, and hopefully few of those outlets involve cocaine. And I can’t envision a talent as extraordinary as David Plouffe or David Axelrod sitting on a bar stool, popping back amaretto sours as he sees the Big Guy on C-SPAN, but even they must feel a little deflated at the moment.

This election’s results were not the catharsis we have strived to reach the election itself was our catharsis.

It was a way to vent our collective frustration over the state of our union. And now it’s over we’re in go mode, but it’s an entirely different kind.

The throngs of people gathering support for their respective candidates aren’t going to be part of the cabinet. We’re left behind while our two men go back to Washington, D.C. with their objectives changed but mindsets still similar. They’ve got stuff to do but what about us?

Do we who refused to be victims of apathy, who instilled something of ourselves into this election season, really just go back to pushing paper or writing essays? To studying for tests and partying on weekend nights? Do the gorgeous infrastructures put in place to network across all 49 states (as the old saying goes, ‘Screw Alaska.”) really just die?
We’re left with the delight of a new dawn but remain as casualties of our emotional investments.

After all the cheering and parading and hugging (and occasional crowding out into the streets), we went to bed, and perhaps for some it hit. For others, perhaps not.
I still don’t entirely comprehend the magnitude of what occurred. But what I do feel, surprisingly, is sadness. It’s not psychologically unsound indeed, it’s a simple concept: the higher our elation, the deeper the impact when our euphoria fades; a strong climax makes for a steep denouement.

And as the story closes on this election, as the next White House chief of staff is chosen, as they set up the 120,000-square-foot transition space, as we tick down the 75 days remaining until the inauguration, I don’t entirely know what to do.

It’s hard, when something amazing or, for that matter, horrible happens, because understanding the consequences can be so difficult, and because those consequences are so incomprehensibly far-reaching.

Life as we know it changed Tuesday night, as it changes with every major occurrence in which we are personally involved.

When those moments occur for us, when we wake up in the middle of the night and realize how different everything seems, it’s a reminder that life is turbulent.

But, we’ll cope. The spirit we had going into Election Day can be summoned yet again, for our life’s own pursuits.

To paraphrase J.R.R. Tolkien, here, at the end of all things, we must maintain our hopes, our dreams and our spirit.

Welcome to the new day. Don’t waste it.

Brenneman is a member of the class of 2009.

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