Four years ago, Barack Obama was elected to his first term as President of the United States of America, and I made the decision to move to Washington DC.
The timing of my move was somewhat serendipitous: I had just signed a new contract with the World Bank and was looking for a bit of a change in life. The fact that Obama was heading to the White House on a platform of change was a perfect entrée to my new phase of life.
Four years later, I’m back in Toronto — and Barack Obama has won himself another four years as President.
A lot has changed in the United States over four years: Obama’s America is recovering from economic trauma and the country is filled with resentment, partisanship, discord, and a wavering sense of self-esteem. In the past four years, the President and his administration have done many things that have made the country a better place (healthcare, equal rights being among them), but there’s still a sense among some that he has done harm, and among others that he hasn’t done enough.
A lot has changed in my life over four years: my current version of myself is recovering from emotional trauma and is filled with hurt, betrayal, resentment, and a low sense of self-worth. In the past four years, I’ve worked on great projects and learned so much about myself and the people around me, but I also have been coping with failure and a loss of sense of self and identity.
Some people look back on the past four years and think things have moved backwards, both for America and for myself. For a good part of this year, I was among the people who thought that way.
Then, yesterday, Barack Obama won another election — and I was reminded that things don’t always work out the way we had planned them, but we can take the small victories of our past and use them to build a better future.
In four years, we lose a lot. We lose support, we lose popularity, we lose unity, we sometimes lose our ability to get things done. We lose friends, we lose lovers, we lose ourselves, we sometimes lose our ability to live the life we had planned out in our minds.
But we also gain so much: we gain insight, experience, strength, resilience, drive, motivation. We gain a thicker skin, we gain coping methods, and we gain the ability to get up after being beaten down for so long and try again.
Barack Obama’s campaign this election wasn’t centered around change, but instead around the word “forward.” That choice of word said that change is inevitable when we get the strength to keep moving ahead despite the obstacles and roadblocks and setbacks.
It said that we may be battered and bruised, but we will persevere.
For both America and for myself, a lot has changed. Things may be harder, divisions and discord may be stronger. But Obama’s win yesterday showed that there is still hope — hope for rebuilding, hope for moving forward.
Here’s to four more years of working hard to make life, the country, and this world a little bit better.