Eight years of growth and change…
January 19, 2017, 11:19 PM
This evening is Barack Obama‘s last in office as President of the United States. At 12:00 tomorrow, Donald Trump will be sworn in, and then the Obama family will leave for a well-deserved vacation to Palm Springs. Meanwhile, based on what we’ve already seen from Trump’s camp as president-elect, what I said in my post-election Journal entry rings true: “In the end, the expression, ‘May you live in interesting times,’ seems like a fitting description of what we may have these next four years in a Trump administration.” Hold on tight, because it’s going to be a crazy ride, and there is no emergency stop mushroom to dump the country and apply all of the brakes.
Meanwhile, I really have to question whether Donald Trump will serve out his full term. Considering how much of a loose cannon he has been, I have a feeling that he will last only until the Republicans in Congress have had enough of him, i.e. when he starts jeopardizing their chances for reelection. Then they will, at the very least, find a reason to impeach him, likely for one of his many conflicts of interests that he has refused to rectify before he takes office. Don’t know if he’ll get removed or not, but I consider an impeachment likely. That or he will pull a Nixon and resign prior to the whole thing. We shall see. All I know is that Trump is making George W. Bush look like a true statesman by comparison, and Bush was an idiot. But Bush at least started acting presidential once the election was over. Trump, on the other hand…
But this Journal entry isn’t supposed to be about Donald Trump. It’s more of a look back over the last eight years, and a reflection on personal growth. In 1980, then-candidate Ronald Reagan said in a debate, “Are you better off than you were four years ago?” I consider the question to oversimplify a number of factors, plus it overestimates the president’s influence on your individual life (the actions of your state and local officials affect your life far more than those of the president), but I consider the question to be a good way to judge how one’s life has progressed over a defined period of time, regardless of who the president is and what they did during their term.
To answer the question of whether I am better off now than I was eight years ago, the answer is definitely yes. Eight years ago, in January 2009, I was 27. I had been working for a year and a half in a dead-end job at Food & Water Watch, a nonprofit working on consumer issues. I had a ridiculous amount of credit card debt due to several big repairs on my car, a 2004 Mercury Sable. I lived in a one-bedroom apartment in Aspen Hill. My interests mostly related to transit and activism. Exemplifying this, the weekend before the 2009 inauguration, I attended an Anonymous raid in extremely cold weather, and took Metro to get there.
Now, eight years later, I have a new career in public transportation with an agency where there is plenty of room for growth. I’m in a union, and most people that work in this agency stay until they retire. I have a different car that I bought new, and which will be completely paid for in a few months. My credit card balance is completely paid off. I still live in the same place, but that will hopefully change soon, as I’m currently working to make a major upgrade to my living situation. And needless to say, I’m still quite interested in transit, though activism has somewhat fallen by the wayside in the intervening years, having become somewhat burned out of it after six years at the aforementioned nonprofit, and ten years attending demonstrations overall.
Of course, this also points to another thing: I probably would have had a similar path had Republican John McCain been in office. In other words, “Are you better off than you were four years ago?” is kind of a bullshit question, since the president works his magic at very high levels, and our being better of worse off, individually, is usually far more attributable to factors that have nothing to do with the president. I didn’t feel compelled to quit my job at Food & Water Watch because of Obama. Rather, it was my weasel of a boss that was the main influence on that. Likewise, Obama really had nothing to do with my decision to go into public transportation. That was all me. And then the car? I’m not going to point to the Sable’s need for major repairs and say, “Thanks, Obama!” Nor will I credit Obama for my new car, or the paying off of my credit card. I will, however, thank the Republicans in Congress for cutting unemployment benefits while I was still looking for a job, but in a raised-middle-finger sort of way, since that was directly their doing.
And truth be told, end-to-end, I did all right under Bush as well, as my personal situation definitely improved over those eight years, but he had little, if anything, to do with it, just like Obama had little, if anything, to do with my self-improvement in his eight years. In 2001, I was a college student working towards a bachelor’s degree in public administration. I lived in the dorms when school was in session, and at my parents’ house when it wasn’t. I worked in a call center doing directory assistance. By the end of Bush’s eight years, I had my degree, I was living on my own, and I had a “real” job (albeit one that turned out to be dead-end).
Similarly, I’m guessing that I will be better off by the time that Donald Trump leaves office, whether at the end of a term or not. And Trump probably won’t have much to do with it. I have plans for my own growth and improvement, and I will see to it that they are executed.
Meanwhile, I will certainly miss Barack Obama and his family. They have been a class act all the way, though I’m sure that they are looking forward to moving on (i.e. Michelle Obama will never run for president). Considering Barack Obama’s various press club speeches over the years, I think he definitely could do stand-up comedy, as he outshined more than a few of the “real” comedians at those events in his eight years.
In any case, though, it’s going to be an interesting ride with Trump in the hot seat. Hold on tight…