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BJ McCollister was, until last week, the chief of staff for Maine Senate President Troy Jackson. He can be found on twitter @bjmccollister.

Oct. 18 marked my last day in the Maine Senate President’s Office. As I end my time with the Maine Senate and lay the groundwork for my next move, I’m making one of the most challenging, bittersweet decisions I ever will.

Serving as the chief of staff for President Troy Jackson has been one of the greatest honors of my life and has given me experiences and memories that I will never give up. I am endlessly thankful to my team, the fellow staffers, and our elected officials who give their all to move our state forward.

But it’s time. Time to practice some self-care, time to refuel the tank for the next round, time to stop and reflect on what we’ve done and what we will do next. Time to pause. And breathe.

As politicos, we are really, really bad at practicing self-care — one anxiety attack, one meltdown, one sleepless night away from total burnout. Burnout that, at best, sets us, our families, our loved ones, and the people we fight for every day back a step.

Like so many people who have struggled during this pandemic, we need to fix that, if not for ourselves, then at the very least, for each other.

This session sent me to a place where I was often on the brink. I needed to pause, but I didn’t. I needed to practice gratitude and radical acceptance, but I didn’t. Instead, I took on a mindset that I was just a few more emails, just a couple more hours of work, just a handful more conversations from overcoming the constant barrage of anxiety that waited at the wings. I was terribly wrong.

Today, I will always aim to practice gratitude and radical acceptance.

Two thousand four hundred and forty-nine days earlier, I joined the Maine Senate Democrats, a group of people who would quickly become some of my closest friends and family.

It was February 2015, and I was an overeager 25-year-old taking over the reins of the only statewide organization focused on winning a Senate majority for Democrats in Maine. Across the country, Democrats had just taken a beating, and Maine Senate Democrats were no exception, having lost a four-seat majority and landing in the minority to a five-seat Republican majority. I was drinking from a firehose, terrified of what would happen if I couldn’t deliver 18 seats and the majority.

Fast forward to today — Senate Democrats hold the largest majority for any political party in over 30 years, and the results speak for themselves. We have passed nation-leading prescription drug reforms,  expanded access to affordable health care for Mainers, fought to deliver fair wages, paid time off, and countless other victories for Maine’s working families.

We tackled structural inequities in our society , took on the tobacco industry, and made them pay for our struggling rural hospitals and ambulance services. We made it easier for people to stay in their homes, with much-needed property tax relief and protections for renters. We stood up for Maine kids, from improving our broken childcare system to guaranteeing universal school meals for every child. We fully funded our schools, ensuring every kid receives a quality education regardless of zip code.

When other states were moving backward in abortion protections, we expanded access to care. When other states were removing voter protections, we made voting more accessible. We helped make life easier for Maine seniors, veterans, farmers, loggers, truckers, papermakers, lobstermen, teachers, nurses, and countless others.

Together, we did so much. Together, we delivered for Maine.

Days after my 32nd birthday, I am preparing to end this chapter to start the next, and I am so excited about it.

But first, I will pause. And breathe.