The truth is that I personally have enjoyed the status of being one of the "kool kidz" for the majority of my life. I have almost always been that kid in school or that person at work who is a part of the "in crowd". I am cool - very cool. I am independent, smart, attractive, sociable and frankly I just don't care about how people feel about me as long as I wake up every morning doing what I want to do and being who I am. Some of this self confidence has developed over the four plus decades that I have been alive on this planet, but on a lot of levels it was what I was born with and thank goodness...
Like President Obama, I was born in the 1960's and I moved around a lot living a life that was not like most of my peers. Unlike President Obama I was and still am an only child. When we moved, I was on my own in my world. No siblings to love or hate or rely upon when I went to a new school. No one but myself in my life because let's face it, even if your parents are as encouraging and loving as mine were (in their own way), you are on your own entirely when you walk into a new school or work environment.
Okay so enough with the "I'm so great" part of this essay. The reality is that I am not so great. I am not bad, but I am so NOT invincible. My place in any social hierarchy is earned daily - or, frankly, sometimes not achieved.
One of the hardest and most distressing aspects of my upbringing was my Father's penchant for telling me that I was "nothing" and that I was not to in any way, shape, or form think of myself as "superior" to anyone else in this world. I was regularly taken down a peg or two as a teenager. Hell, it still happens from time to time when I deal with him. But here's the thing - as "mean" as he may sound to some reading this - he did me a HUGE favor. He kept me from (most of the time) not being written off as some sort of arrogant sod because he instilled in me a sense of duty and respect for other human beings on this planet. He cut the arrogance factor and made me not only a generally better person, but also instilled the value of applying that arrogance that might otherwise be self-centered and applying it to others around me.
The first lesson what when I was six in first grade and I was doing Valentines for the class. We were living in the DC metro area and one of the kids in my class was a Vietnamese boy who had been adopted by some guy in the Nixon Administration. No one in the class liked this boy. He was social poison. I didn't want to give him a Valentine because that would have been social suicide. I was told that I would give Valentines to everyone in the class or no one at all. I considered the consequences of not offering any Valentines and decided that it would be better to go with the blanket approach than none at all. I figured that it would not be a big deal if the Vietnamese boy got one, too.
So, I distributed all of my Valentines and it turned out that I was the only one in the class of 30 children who gave the boy a Valentine. Okay, that's devastatingly sad. Really ugly and I felt his pain that he had only one from me out of a possible 30. Shit, even today that realization evokes very sad emotions and makes me sick to my stomach. Then it got worse. The boy who I really did not like and could not relate to decided that the Valentine meant that I actually liked him. He and I were not "peas in a pod". It had nothing to do with where he was from or the fact that his father and my father were soon to be at political odds over Watergate, it was simply that we were not people who were going to be natural friends. A reader may question my ability to remember all of this from my sixth year on earth, but trust me, this was a huge and important lesson that has greatly affected my life and has made me far more sympathetic and empathetic than I might have been without going to school with this boy. I remember thinking that it was a real drag for him not to be a "kool kid".
Fast forward to my later years, I moved on from that public school without missing a beat and was so cool that I was able to drive a teacher into a mental institution - not kidding - that was evil. Ten year olds can be frighteningly cruel and powerful in their own right. I was one of those. I was a leader and I was not shy about asserting my agenda. We didn't know that we were sending that lady into a mental health clinic, but we did know that she was weak and we were like sharks with blood - we went for it. We were cool, ten and totally not checked in to our effect on people's lives. I still marvel at the power we wielded and how out of touch I was in my little golden circle.
Then we moved again and I was again in a new school. By the time I was eleven, I had attended five different schools. I thought nothing of my ability to be a kool kid... But it didn't work that way. I went to a school in a totally different part of the country with a totally different culture and what happened was that I ended up being one of the geeky outcasts. My god-given right to being a part of the "in crowd" suddenly and inexplicably disappeared. I found myself having only yet another neurotic and insecure teacher and some other people who were incredibly socially awkward available to me as potential friends. I did not like any of these people. Not that they were "bad" per se, but there was no real connection other than being outcasts. The move put my parents' relationship under tremendous pressure and I was incredibly distracted by that as well. I was a kid who had been a high achiever in school academically and socially and all of a sudden I could not make friends nor was I doing well in school. One asshole teacher told my parents that she thought that I was not smart enough to be in the schoo. My IQ and my academic record prior to that year both put me over the "genius" status, but all of a sudden I had no brain.
That's when and how a lot of things changed for me. I was not the golden girl. I was not smart. I was a failure. I was socially disabled. Frankly, at the time I was pretty distressed and stressed out because things got so bad between my parents (who are still married now) that I suggested that they get divorced just to get me some relief from the distractions of the conflicts they had at that time in their life. It was a crazy time in my life...
I went on to several more schools and have lived in many places over the course of my life. I pretty much regained my status of "Kool" and have mostly held onto it over the decades. But only because I understood that being "Kool" was something that I had to earn - and that compassion for people who weren't "Kool" actually made a big difference for various reasons. I am "kool" but the really important result of how I have chosen to live my life is that I have loyalty because I have extended that to people regardless of their kool factor or their ability to get me ahead.
The most important part of the demotion in social status experience was that I learned about how easy it is to fall from grace in life. More importantly I learned that I am not so damn important or special to take any status for granted to me for granted: I learned that a lot of people who are not in the "in crowd" probably don't deserve that lesser status at all; that you always have to work and earn your place in this world no matter how great you think you are; and that you will fail if you do not consider the challenges, problems or power of people around you in life - no matter how "weak" they are considered to be within the social context in which you find yourself.
The thing that is really bugging me about the Obama Administration is that I feel like they have learned none of this stuff. They believe that they are the "kool kidz" and that we will all be Beta to their Alpha just "because". That is an unsustainable model for living with other humans - trying to get re-elected without understanding how far one can fall, is a huge liability.
The politics aren't really that complicated. People either like you, trust you or appreciate your efforts or not. If you prove to be untrustworthy, look like you are not contributing at the level that you should be and also seem to be detached and self-involved - on the political front, in particular, you will be fucked.
Sweet dreams! Thanks for listening.