I coulda been a contender

Finland had a presidential election recently, and for the first time in my lifetime, the new President is younger than me, albeit only by a few months. The new head of state is also someone I’ve played hockey against when we were – both – pre-teens and teens. 

A few weeks ago, I was sitting across the table from his father, a prominent hockey executive, talking hockey for a book I’m working on. And since it was right in the middle of the campaign, the topic of presidency came up. 

“I’m sure he’ll win,” I said, while grabbing another Jaffa cake (which, for some reason, you can’t find in Sweden, but that’s another story).  

“We’ll see,” said the then-future Father of the President. 

“It could’ve been me.”

I didn’t say that out loud but I did think it. And then I took another Jaffa cake – because they were there. 

I guess in countries that have a president, being elected to the highest office also becomes the greatest accomplishment. In countries like Sweden, most people can’t dream of becoming the King. A Queen consort or a Prince, sure, but chances of that happening are also slim to none. 

But President? Well, that’s something to aspire to. 

In sixth grade, my class was transferred to another building for reasons that I still don’t know. Back then, the only information I needed was where to go in the morning and when they told us to go to another building, that’s what I did. 

Logically then, when they told me to go to the school nurse for a check up, well, that’s what I did, even though it wasn’t my idea of fun. Thinking back now, the nurse’s office was in the basement, off the rest of the school, in a corridor behind a blue, thick steel door, the kind they used in bomb shelters.

She recorded my height and weight, and checked my hearing and eyesight, making some gentle small talk. Then she asked me to sit down and asked me some questions about school and what not. 

And then she told me I was such a clever and polite boy. 

“You’re so clever I’m sure you’ll be President one day,” she said. 

I don’t think anyone had said that to me before. No adult anywhere had said I was clever enough to be President. Me? President? Well, maybe, I thought. 

The reason it really stuck with through the years was repetition. She told me so every time I went to visit her, which was only a few times: that first time, the following year’s check up and one other time I felt sick. But every time she saw me, she said something nice and added that I was certainly a future President. 

I’m almost afraid to write about this now, because I fear that one of my classmates might read this and tell me the nurse told them the same thing.

She was the only one who ever said something like that and while I’ve forgotten her name, I’ve never forgot that face or those words. Even today, they make me sit up a little straigher, with a smile on my face.

I still can’t quite fathom it. I was a clever boy, sure, but so clever that I could become the President of Finland?

Me? Get out of town.

He did win and in a few weeks, he’ll be sworn in as the 13th President of Finland. 

I sent a congratulatory text to his father and with that, I’ll pull my hat out of the ring.

I’ll never be the president.

But you know what? I’m fine with that.

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