The Obama Years: My Journey into Adulthood

I’ve lived through four presidents. If you’re smart enough, you’d know who was in office four presidents ago. As of last week, January 20th, Trump is my fifth president. *sigh* I never wanted this day to come. And it isn’t because we have a narcissistic reality star as our president.

This is hard to explain…

Each time a president left office it was the start of a new chapter in my life. It isn’t because I’m a political junkie who watches CNN all day. This is hard to explain. All of our memories correlate with whatever was going on at the time.

Clinton left office just as I started middle school. Throughout the Clinton years I found girls to be annoying rather than attractive. Bush became president just as I started looking at the booty. Seven years later I headed to college just as Bush was on his way out.

The Bush years represented the start of our ‘War on Terror.’ It was a time of optimism. America was setting out to topple terrorist regimes throughout the Middle East. That optimism turned to disillusionment. There was more to the War on Terror than met the eye. Pointless wars, scandals, and a recession led America to resent its president. After eight years America was ready for a new beginning.

America sounded a lot like me in high school.

High school was the winter of my life. At first I thought it would be a repeat of middle school. It would mean four more years of carousing with my childhood friends. Four more years of drawing obscene pictures in the back of textbooks. Four more years of scourging up and down Rockaway Boulevard with my friends. Instead it was four long years of self-hate, bullying, and social isolation.

Each year was better than the last. It wasn’t because the bullying became less severe over time. It was because I knew that once high school was over, the bullying would end.

No more being teased because of my weight. No more being called a ‘fat Mexican.’ No more going through metal detectors each morning. It meant moving on from the whore that cursed me out because I gave her chocolates on Valentine’s Day. I wouldn’t have to see her again. I could move on.

I didn’t know what to do with myself after graduating.

The remaining six months of the year consisted of eating and sleeping. It was six months of being ‘American.’ In December of that year I was accepted into a community college. I wasn’t ecstatic about going to college. I was willing to get college over and done with.

Things began changing gradually. Just as Bush was leaving office, life had gotten better. In the summer of that year I had my first job. I began making friends. Girls started noticing me. I had a greater degree of freedom than ever before.

The generic optimism following the 2008 presidential election was really irritating. Was it because Obama would be our first black president? Or was it because we were finally rid of Bush after eight long years? At the moment I felt that no matter who was president my life would stay as it was.

I was wrong.

Throughout those eight years I earned two college degrees. I lost weight and became self-confident. I went from Dickies and Tims to hickeys and Tims. (I’m just playing about the hickeys.)

On the flip side, I faced overwhelming pain. Family and friends came in one door and out of the other. I lived in abhorrent conditions. Under conditions which no one should have to live though. At times I thought of moving into a homeless shelter.

For eight years I was able to hold myself together. Not because I wanted to. It was because I had to. It was a matter of survival. Eight years before today I wasn’t able to hold myself together. I depended on others to hold me together. It never worked.

These past seventeen years have been a wild ride. Not just for me, but for America.

The Clinton years represented what some call ‘The End of History.’ It was supposed to be a time of peace and prosperity. The collapse of the Soviet Union gave way to western democracy in Eastern Europe. We were no longer lingering under the threat of nuclear annihilation. We were at peace.

The Bush years put an end to that pipe dream. The Cold War became the War on Terror. Throughout two wars and the threat of economic collapse, America stood strong. Obama did not change America per se. We still enforce ‘western democracy’ on countries that are hostile to western values.

I’m not a fan of President Obama. Neither am I a fan of Bush or Trump. BUT…

I will always long for the Obama years. It was a time in which I transcended into adulthood. It was eight years of growing pains, distress, depression, success, and happiness. I’ve always stood strong as America does in times of distress. And like America, I am unwilling to trade eight years of progress and stability for four years of uncertainty.

Individuality or Alienation? My Perspective

As human beings we love showing off our individuality. This isn’t a bad thing. Why shouldn’t I show off my new Timberland boots on social media? It shows that I’ve worked hard to buy them. It represents my taste in clothing. Believe it or not, it also represents my culture. My hairstyle, accent, and choice in music represent me as a person. But how am I different from others?

‘Timbs’ are not to be worn with shorts

Our society is one ruled by the media. Let’s look at the NBA. I don’t watch basketball until the playoffs. I feel that the NBA is rigged. NBA superstars are promoted rather than the team they play on. You will never see a small market team win a championship (besides the Spurs). The NBA is a business rather than a sports league.

Why would anyone want to see the Utah Jazz win a championship? Unless you’re a basketball enthusiast, you won’t know the starting center for the Jazz. The Jazz have nothing to bring to the table. Should the Jazz make it to the finals, NBA ratings will go down the toilet. Why care for a team that you know nothing about?

I don’t keep up with basketball at all. Well, I do, via Bleacher Report. But that isn’t the point. Let’s look at an example.

My friend knows nothing about basketball. He doesn’t follow sports. Nonetheless he’d recognize Steph Curry if he saw him on the A train. He’d recognize Ayesha and Riley. How are Steph Curry’s wife and daughter relevant to the game of basketball? They aren’t. Social media, news outlets, magazines, and television promote issues which are more or less irrelevant.

Golden State Warriors Point Guard Stephen Curry, wife Ayesha, and daughter Riley

Everybody and they momma watches the BET Awards and the Grammy’s. Why would anyone wanna watch someone they don’t know win an award? I don’t. BET ain’t giving me no award, so why should I watch? It’s like going to a graduation ceremony for the sake of watching people graduate.

The day after the BET Awards, everybody and they momma stay talking about it. As I don’t follow the crowd, I find myself having nothing to talk about nor anyone to talk to. My interests don’t align with the interests of the majority. Thus I find myself alienated from friends, family, and coworkers.

Is my situation one of alienation or individuality?

Both!

I don’t choose to be different. I choose not to indulge myself with the issues and interests of mainstream society. As a person, I am different. I am an individual. I am a person with different ideas, beliefs, and interests.

None of my friends know who the last General Secretary of the Soviet Union was. None of my friends know what “the Derg” was. None of my friends listen to Blackstreet, SWV, or Carl Thomas. Why is it so difficult to relate to my peers?

Mengistu Haile Mariam, chairman of the ‘Derg,’ a military junta which ruled over Ethiopia from the 70’s to late 80’s

For the sake of supporting my argument, I googled individuality. Individuality means, “the quality or character of a particular person or thing that distinguishes them from others of the same kind, especially when strongly marked.”

We are all unique. Your race, culture, religion, etc. define you as a person. But as a society, how do we express ourselves as individuals? Are our interests different from that of the person sitting next to you? Let’s look at an example.

Many feel that tattoos and piercings are expressions of individuality. Are they?

Tattoos and piercings are unique, but they are not an expression of individuality. How are you expressing yourself as an individual if every other person has a tattoo or piercing? There’s only a limited amount of places on your body that can be pierced. Will dudes start piercing their colon? I hope not.

Some claim tattoos are an expression of love, experiences, etc. How is tattooing the name of your significant other on your arm an expression of love? When you love someone you express your love through actions.

I love my wife, I love my husband, my children, my neighbors, my parents, etc.  Therefore, I will try to express my love by praying for them. I will try to express my love by encouraging them through difficult situations. How does a tattoo express love? It doesn’t.

I’m not looking down on people with tattoos or piercings. I am not God. However, I do feel that they are a socially accepted ritual that expresses a need to be accepted or noticed. Think about it. Would you get a septum piercing if you were the only human on Earth? In a broader sense, would you dress the way you do if you were the only human on Earth? Would you wear clothes at all? I think not.

Many of our actions are based upon the perceptions of others. Why wear makeup or comb your hair before going out? I’m not saying that we should stop expressing ourselves all together. We should stop believing that trends and rituals are expressions of who we are as people. We must broaden our interests rather than letting the media and mainstream society define it for us.

You may alienate yourself from others because of your interests or beliefs. But, they will define you as a person rather than someone who falls in with the crowd.