Chlöe Swarbrick: My first Christmas since becoming an MP

I was 22, which was my identifying characteristic in any news story I featured in, to such an extent that my friends jokingly referred to me as ‘Chlöe Swarbrick, 22’.

I already know what I need from Christmas this year, because I learned so much from last year. My first Christmas after I fell into politics came at the end of last year, wedged between an earnest, idealistic and serious-as-hell bid for the Auckland mayoralty, before becoming a Green Party candidate in what became the campaign of our lives. I was 22, which was my identifying characteristic in any news story I featured in, to such an extent that my friends jokingly referred to me as ‘Chlöe Swarbrick, 22′.

That Christmas was a sigh of relief at the end of a chaotic, largely unplanned foray into uncharted territory. I’d discovered that becoming a politician was much like becoming an adult. As a kid, you feel as though adults have a clue – they know the meaning of life. Then you become an adult and realise nobody knows what the heck is going on. Becoming a politician is a bit like that: you come to realise pretty quickly that everybody is just doing the best they can with the resources available to them.

Last Christmas Day I spent the morning at my dad’s doing what we usually do: eating croissants and ploughing through coffee. The afternoon was spent with my partner Alex’s extended family – something unlike anything I’d ever seen growing up: the family-holiday equivalent of an excitable labrador – big and unwieldy and as warm and welcoming and loving as anything. Boxing Day was spent with Mum and my nana, reclining in the sun and predicting an unpredictable year ahead.

There was nothing that could have prepared me for 2017. About three years ago, juggling the final years of a law degree, running two businesses and working part-time, I thought I’d hit peak busyness. But by August of this year, I was regularly waking up in a different city or town, attending events I’d had no time to think about until I was in the midst of them.

Election day hit me like a brick wall. It’s against the rules to campaign on election day, so after months of campaigning, which had become as natural as breathing, I felt at a loose end. I spent September 23 at a sausage-dog race with my good friend Tim, before heading out to deliver sandwiches to Green Party scrutineers, those people who wear rosettes at polling booths.

That night was a bit of a blur, as the votes flowed in and a bittersweet certainty rolled into the party: the Green Party had survived, but the size of our caucus had nearly halved; we had one, potentially two, new MPs; and the chance of changing the government hovered closer than ever before. Then came a flurry of interviews.

I’ve not yet really had time to settle into the new job. I feel the weight of responsibility and the undeniable privilege sitting in my new office, typing this surreal retrospective, overlooking a quiet and beautiful Wellington CBD at 10.51pm on a Monday evening.

This Christmas, I think I’ll eat croissants and plough through coffee. I’ll see my mum and my dad, my little brother and sister. I’ll hang out with Alex, and I’ll take a moment to breathe.

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