Dear Mr. President,
Today I brought in one of my Senior portraits to show one of my coworkers who'd asked to see what I looked like with dreadlocks. A trip down memory lane always is good for a laugh, (especially when recalling my 18-year-old self's somewhat eccentric fashion sense.) This week, reflecting as I have been on the very different paths so many of my friends from those days have taken, I can't help but wonder if the girl with the purple dreads and the pink satin thrift-store dress over bell-bottom jeans would be happy with the way she's turned out. My wardrobe is certainly more subdued, my hair less exciting, but would she be ok knowing what I've become? What I've failed to become? I may not miss much about being 18, but she had a faith in herself and in her own ability to achieve that's been lost in the years since this picture was taken, and today I miss that faith tremendously.
I've been struggling lately to remind myself that lives and accomplishments can't (and shouldn't) be held up for comparison. The decisions that have led me to my current state may haunt me in the evident joy of those who chose the alternate path, but I cannot evaluate my life against those of my peers. Our circumstances and struggles and goals are very different. It is ultimately the ways I've disappointed my own hopes, and not the ways the my life and accomplishments fail to measure up to those of my friends, that really bother me.
Do you feel like you've lived up to the goals you set for your Presidency? While it may be just as unfair to compare your own achievements to those of previous Presidents, this context is used by media pundits and fellow politicians alike to lend context to your achievements and shortcomings. This may be even more unfair than judging my own life against other 24-year-olds, as
we've come of age in the same era while your predecessors had very different social, congressional and economic situations. I reject the comparisons to Presidents Clinton, Carter and Bush (I & II) but I do wonder about the ways you've disappointed your own hopes and expectations. Today's tax compromise cannot feel like you'd imagined running the country would feel when you were campaigning.
I'm probably just projecting my own soul-searching onto you, but I think that such an ugly political defeat would have to make you reflect on the things you said you'd do once you got to the White House. I wish I had something cheerful or comforting to say, but I can only hope that both of us find the strength to face our reflections tomorrow morning. Our accomplishments, past and to come, mean nothing without it. And, be it because of the judgement of old photographs or the way we suffer in comparison to others, I think that there is some good, some hope, so long as we maintain the honesty necessary to feel our disappointment in ourselves.