What do you get and what does it cost?

This is pretty easy to discuss when we’re discussing buying an ice cream sandwich. It costs $2, you get an ice cream sandwich.

It gets a little more nuanced when we talk about what $2 means to you, what the freedom to choose is worth, the guilt or joy you get from eating a sugary dessert all on your own, the fun of sharing it with a friend, your narrative about hormones and livestock… Maybe it’s not that easy after all.

And so we get to the sometimes subtle calculation of voting.

Tomorrow in the US is voting day. It apparently doesn’t cost anything to vote–just a few minutes of time. But it actually can feel like it costs a lot, because it comes with cognitive load, with decision making, with a feeling of power or futility or connection or loneliness. If you don’t vote, it’s a lot easier to deny any responsibility.

A year ago, I was standing in line at an ice cream stand in Syracuse, NY. A person in front of me took more than two minutes (a long time when it’s a long line!) to make up their mind, and even let two other people jump ahead because it was so hard (which means, also, so fun) to be undecided. That’s a choice, and the date certain of voting pushes us to move through that state…

But along with these costs, voting comes with the feeling of participation. Even if you don’t think your vote counts, others do. People are paying attention, and over time, it adds up.

And it comes with the feeling of generosity, because you can vote to advance the well-being of someone who needs to be seen even more than you do.

If you’re a habitual non-voter, it’s worth wondering for a moment about the calculation you use to keep that streak going, and perhaps consider exploring the feelings that come when you break that streak.

Not just tomorrow, but in all the ways, and on all the days, when we don’t speak up, don’t raise our hands and don’t vote.