There's so much heft to that question and it has been ringing in my head for the last week.
I don't know if it is ever a good idea to develop a complete answer to that question. I've tried. Heck, even as I was running for Delegate people would ask me "What will you do after this?" and every time I responded "Be the best Delegate I can possibly be." And I genuinely meant it.
On Tuesday night, Amanda Yeager asked me "where is Tom Coale in 2018?" and I responded "running for Dad of the year." I meant that (although I think the "Best Dad Ever" awards affixed to coffee mugs and t-shirts are presumptuous and unnecessarily competitive). Six days in, I can say that I was meant to be a Dad. I feel fulfilled. There are few things that can steal the sting of an election loss after 18 months of campaigning, but I can easily say that meeting your infant daughter for the first time is tops on that list.
But "what's next" persists, nags, and inspires.
I suppose I should be more cynical, but I'm not. I came in with the understanding that you don't enter the ring without the clear acceptance that you could get knocked out. I still feel the worst for people who helped me and wanted to see all that work come to fruition. And that's why I've been writing. But I'm not mad. I'm really not even sad, and that's a bit unfair to those who are. I plan to make it up to them by what I do now.
But seriously, what the heck comes next?
I need to be somewhere on the frontier; on the edge of things. More importantly, I love the fight. We convince ourselves that all good things can be accomplished in compromise and conciliation, but history does not agree. Every single thing I can count as an accomplishment in my own professional and community life has involved some measure of fight. Not based on emotion, not based on animosity, but premised on the simple belief that there is good in this world and it is worth fighting for. I always intend to communicate my concerns in a way that expresses an interest in cooperation with a sharp deterrence against going the other way.
The House of Delegates was not "what's next", or at least not now, and not for me. And I think the alternative path will likely be better. But until I figure out an answer as to what comes next, I will be locked in to that consideration. And making sure my answer is never complete.
Have a great Tuesday doing what you love!