Sunday, January 10, 2010

Day 10

Dear Mr. President,

Tonight my best friend and I are having an African-themed dinner. She's preparing herself for a 2-year trip to Burkina Faso for the Peace Corps. Don't get me wrong, the idea of eating goat is pretty appalling to both of us vegetarians, but we recognize that she's probably going to have to adjust to it, somehow.

When we were seniors together in high school, our AP English teacher had us write letters to our future selves, which she promised to mail 5 years after graduation. At the time, I had my life planned out well enough to tell myself exactly where I should be. One year into my peace corps service, graduated from college, best friends with my best friend, and, preferably, still dating my boyfriend. As you can imagine, 5 years later, my future self has disappointed her high school past on all but one count.

My best friend and I have gone to school on opposite side of the country, spent a semester on different continents while she was in South Africa, and have stayed close through it all. Will two years apart change that? Since high school I've at least learned enough not to say for sure. But I wouldn't have her stay. I'm so proud of her willingness to give two years of her life to helping others, and inspired by the way she embraces the unknown. It is comforting to think that, even if I haven't lived up to my own expectations, she has.

I think most of my generation graduated High School and planned on changing the world. It seems daily I read or hear something about our generation being apathetic, uninformed, disengaged. Where did we go wrong? What happened between high school and real life that kept so many of us from living up to our own expectations?

For me, it was money. It's not that I feel like every one should just be given a college education. It should be a challenge. It should be something I invest enough of myself in to make it worthwhile. When I get my degree (and, mark my words, I will) it will have been hard won, and it will mean something to me, more than it will ever mean to the people reading about it on my resume. But, between trying to save to go back, and pay off the loans I already have, trying to choose between the benefits of a full-time job and the demands of a full load of classes, I wish going to college in America was just a little bit easier. Would a degree make me happy? Yes. Would it make me the person I thought I'd be by now? Probably not.

I'm still enjoying your book. At my age, you were more successful and more ambitious, but you were, in many ways, just a lost as I feel now. This gives me hope. Not so much that I could be elected president, but that I, too, could wind up a successful, well-adjusted adult with some idea of what my purpose ought to be. I'm looking forward to discovering how you pulled it off.

For now, I'm going to enjoy African food and the last few months with my friend. She's got a two-year plan, at least, and it will be interesting to see where we are whenever we meet again. I hope that in two years' time, I'm more like her, and more like the person I'd hoped to be in high school. For what it is worth, it is comforting to both of us to think that you'll still be in the White House, and that our country will, in all likelihood, be two years better off because of it.

Respectfully yours,


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