Y’all don’t have to get me a cake or anything, but Election Day was my first time to vote in a presidential election.

This statement certainly puts a target on my age, but hopefully not by too much. The first time I could have voted was during my junior year of college, but sadly, as a college student, I didn’t care for much else besides work and getting scholarships to pay for my school. I was too busy researching Western civilizations and world religions to research presidential candidates and what on earth I was supposed to do on a “Super Tuesday.”

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been an advocate for voting, but voting based on informed decisions and not on the popular opinion. So as a student, I followed my own advice. I didn’t know why I should vote for Mitt Romney or Barack Obama, so I didn’t. I simply removed myself from the equation.

This year, however, was much different. As a grown-up, and as a grown-up in journalism no less, I feel that I’ve been able to keep up with the debates and with this election’s cast of characters. I thought and prayed about it long and hard and made an important decision on who was going to get my vote.

Keeping up with this year’s presidential candidates and nominations has certainly taken a toll on me, however. It was a historic election, but with that means everywhere I turned seemed to be plastered with election coverage. I’m sure this can’t be healthy for us as a society. The race was important, but it was also vile and ugly, and it was hard to be entrenched in it 24-7. That’s a big part of the reason why I leapt at the chance to participate in early voting. This process is important to me, but the less time it got from me the better.

And, to be completely honest, a part of me hoped that by voting early it might somehow end the election sooner.

I voted on a Thursday, and literally had butterflies in my stomach as I got ready to vote in my first presidential election. I’m hardly a political expert, though I firmly believe I did my part and researched my candidates thoroughly. I’m playing a role in hiring a new president, and just like I would as an employer, I wanted to make sure I was selecting the best candidate for the job. I take doing my civic duty very seriously.

There’s that certain rush you get when you flash your ID and make your selection. You leave the voting booth with a sticker and with a sense that you’ve been a part of something bigger than yourself. It’s like witnessing firsthand history in the making — which, in this election, I’d say we did.

Now that the election is over, however, I’d very much like for all of us to go back to our lives and detach ourselves from hanging on everything that happens in Washington. Stay informed, yes, but by all means let’s get out there and focus on other things that might matter more to us. Let’s get ready to make memories this holiday season. Let’s celebrate the things that make us feel good, like a free drink at Starbucks or a Saturday afternoon with nothing to do.

And when the next election comes around, let’s all be ready to participate. Read. Study. Stay informed and help lead your country, but do it after basking in the glow of the good things in life.

Miranda Wilcox is the managing editor of the Anna-Melissa Tribune, the Prosper Press and the Van Alstyne Leader. Contact her by email at mwilcox@amtrib.com.