“I know it sounds like an ending, this is a beginning/ The wheels keep spinning on a brand new thought” – Big Pooh of Little Brother, “When Everything Is New”
I’ve had to say quite a few goodbyes in the last few weeks. I had to bid new friends in China farewell as I headed back to the United States. After the briefest of stays, I had to give my family a big see-you-later on my way back to school. At the same time, I had to bid adieu to pleasant weather for the next three months. Last week, I had the sad task of saying goodbye to my grandmother, the last of my grandparents, when she passed away.
Of course, it hasn’t all been sad; I got the privilege of peacing out on the real world for a while and coming to nerd camp at Carleton. I made it here and remembered we had all shown Sodexho the door, although, since this has also been the year where the risk-free investment rode off into the sunset, it turns out we also kicked takeout coffee to the curb in the same inspired move. We’ve been left with a monument to the snack bar that was, complete with a eulogy to buying string cheese and Nana Nillars parfaits.
It turns out, too, that Carleton gave a big parting pat on the back to bad sports teams and ugly kids (to the best extent it could – we all have limits). The campus has mourned the disappearance of its greatest phallic monument, which proved to be a symbol for those of returning to campus of the fact that we were wishing our social relevance well, since we still don’t quite get what the big deal was. Part of this social relevance thing means that we’ve had to let go of the idea of a campus where there aren’t dudes everywhere wearing flatbrim hats that have been poorly coordinated with their outfits, part of it means that we’ve had to usher out the idea that people will stay out of your room on a Saturday night on 2nd Nourse when you’re not there just because it’s not theirs (I mean, seriously guys? I would have given you a drink, but you just straight up stole from my fridge).
Yup, it’s been a real parade of au revoirs, and it’s clear that things are no longer the way they were for me, for Carleton, or for the world. Oh, and then, on Monday, I get to wish a big ol’ hearty sayonara to the Bush Administration, which I’ve been waiting for since the dawning of my political consciousness in seventh grade.
That’s right, see ya to a list of scandals I would list if it hadn’t already taken an independent organization 115 pages to summarize, ciao to far-right partisan politics, corrupt officials, war, war profiteering, ideology-driven science, systemized attacks on the environment, torture, administration-sanctioned bigotry, and suppression of civil liberties. I hope the door hits the relevant parties hard enough on the way out to knock them into a country where they can be tried for war crimes. Some goodbyes do feel particularly good.
But if 2008, as it plummeted further into economic and social chaos, was the end of the Bush Years; as one class and food provider left Carleton and another arrived, was the end of one type of underclassman experience; as I wrapped up my journeys abroad and looked toward five straight terms of college, was a year of transience, well, 2009 will not be any of those.
When Barack Obama takes office on Tuesday, the hopes laid on his shoulders will be immense, but the potential for change in the way America approaches its place in the world, in the respect the American government has for its people, and in the practice of governing responsibly will be large as well. It’s equally easy to place outsized expectations on the arrival of a new administration and to lose all hope in the face of an ever-worsening economic climate, but, in my case, taking my cue both from longstanding American ideals and from a look the small part of the world where I live, the most appropriate approach seems to be a quiet, determined optimism.
After all, life for my family without my grandma in it may seem daunting, and I may not quite know what to do with myself for five months at Carleton after a year and a half never spending more than 14 weeks in one place, but what lies ahead will probably go down easier if I don’t expect it to end horribly. I’m looking forward to a new beginning for the country, for myself at Carleton, and even for this column.
So, since I’ve said goodbyes, both difficult and flippant, in great numbers recently, I’m ready to look ahead with a little bit of optimism, even if it does look like I will probably be graduating from college next year in a historically bad climate for employment. And when President Barack Hussein Obama steps on stage on Tuesday, I’m going to be right there with him, welcoming in an era of new beginnings. Starting with some new phallic sidewalks around campus – because that’s a joke I really want to be in on.