I celebrated my 18th birthday Nov. 3, 2010. “Celebrated” is an exaggeration, as the day followed the Tuesday that Gov. LePage was elected with 38 percent of the vote.

Although one additional ballot from a politically enthused 18-year-old would not have made a difference, I still felt responsible. I tried to stay optimistic, but that optimism soon flew out the window.

Two years later I interned with the Department of Environmental Protection in Augusta. I worked side by side with nationally regarded scientists who exhibited poise, camaraderie and intelligence despite working under a commissioner and a governor who consistently prevented employees from doing their jobs.

Professionals nationwide have historically looked to Maine as a leader in environmental monitoring and regulation. It’s amazing how fast one “leader” can destroy a reputation.

I remember thinking LePage’s reign would never end, largely because I could never imagine being a senior in college. The only consolation for me was that there would be no way he could possibly win a second term.

It’s four years later, and somehow I’m a senior in college. To say the least, LePage’s re-election wasn’t the 22nd birthday present I was looking for.

It’s easy to place the blame – on those of us who supported independent Eliot Cutler or on the 40 percent who never made it to the polls – but I’ve learned over the past four years that blame in hindsight is never worth the energy.

Despite an instinct to eliminate Maine from my post-college job search, I realize this is the time the state needs us most.

Maine needs leaders to fight for a future where schools will not be graded on an arbitrary scale, and where businesses can thrive; to fight for high environmental standards, and for young people to stay in Maine. As this leadership won’t be coming from the Blaine House, it’s up to us.

Zoe Kitchel

Yale University senior