Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Eight Years Ago

I don't think any of my conservative friends read this blog, so I won't feel bad about being partisan here. Yesterday I had a big deadline, so today was spent lounging around, watching the inauguration and generally trying to relax.
Watching Obama take the oath of office and give his excellent speech was an amazing time for me. I haven't been very active in following politics in the far past (i.e. more than 5 years ago) so this was the first inauguration I've watched. It took me back to eight years ago though.January 20, 2001 I was driving from Goshen to South Bend Indiana, in the van with my mom. I was a high school senior (yes, I'm young) visiting Goshen for a scholarship weekend, I believe, and we were driving to South Bend for the day to visit my cousin's family. On the way there we turned on the radio and the voices of NPR brought the inauguration to us.

No one could have predicted what the next eight years would have in store for us as a country, or what an impact Bush's presidency would have on the country and on the world. (Interpret this statement as you see fit.) Nor could I have predicted what the next eight years would have in store for me personally.
With my brother and two cousins - Summer 2000
I headed to the movies for Girl's Night tonight and remarked on how unlikely I would have thought my current life was eight years ago. That 17 year old wouldn't have had a clue what LaTeX was, let alone how to write a paper in it. She didn't know where she was going to college, just that she had interests in Math and Peace and Justice Studies. She read incessantly and wrote for the school paper. She was taking a college course in Hymnody, the history and study of hymns. She desperately wanted to spend a semester abroad in South Africa learning about the South African choral tradition. She'd never left the US and Canada and had only been to three King's Singers concerts.
Kayaking in Aialik Bay July 2008
Today I'm in my fourth year of a Ph.D. in computer science. I'm living in Minnesota, typing this post on a MacBook!, play guitar hero on occasion, and have cable tv. I've been going to the gym to build up my endurance and learn to run. Last summer I spent several days in the woods in the middle of nowhere with no electricity, no running water, and bears, leading me to conclude that kayaking made more sense than hiking. Instead of South Africa, I ended up studying in England, leading to my current love-affair with the British Isles. I've traveled, multiple times, in nine countries and have seen the King's Singers about 20 times in four countries. (Yes, watching Flight of the Conchords did lead me to self-reflection.)

Some things are the same. I still sing in my church choir, still love to read L'Engle, Feynman, and the New Yorker. I still dream about living abroad, speaking another language fluently, and being a better pianist. I'm a good cook, fairly messy, and a bit klutzy.

I assume that the people around me are following politics, so I assume that you could conduct a similar assessment of the US over these past eight years.

I like to think that my life now is better than I would have expected eight years ago, which I do not think holds true for our country. But on November 4th, we gave the nation another chance. Right now we are struggling, but the tunnel is not dark any longer. There is a light that, at noon today, got a whole lot brighter, illuminating the tunnel and helping us to see our surroundings and the path ahead. We will not escape the tunnel without making some wrong turns or stumbling here and there. But we have a leader who will help us forward, who will make sure we don't get lost in the back, and who will have the confidence to ask the person who's been in the tunnel before to help lead us out. And that, my friends, will make all the difference.

1 comment:

Simon said...

It still makes me happy every day I wake up and George Bush is NOT the president.