Every night I dream of Obama now. Most of the dreams are unrealistic scenes from home, where I hang out with Barack’s family. “Do you want a bagel?” I ask Barack as he enters the kitchen with the morning newspaper.
“Sure – would you toast it for me?” he replies.
I still remember where I was when Obama announced, live, his intention to run for President in 2007. I was on the treadmill at the gym, and I scrambled to switch my headphones from my iPod to the miniature television attached to the machine. Part of the reason I remember so well is that I almost went off the back of the treadmill when switching the headphones.
It wasn’t long after that I began analyzing his voting record, scouring his history through Internet leads, and trying to learn more about the man who would eventually become our President. When he came to Seattle I bought a ticket and listened intently to a well-delivered, though policy-thin, speech. And to be honest, though I was likely to vote for Barack Obama, I hadn’t ruled out voting for Hillary Clinton.
It was about this time that something was happening in Washington D.C. that would change the next two years of my life. My Peace Corps application was finally complete and approved, and it had been passed on to the Peace Corps China official. I got a call and eventually accepted the invitation to serve in the People’s Republic of China.
The volunteers were much like my colleagues in Seattle: most of them were liberal, and most clung to some kind of idealism. We would have intense discussions about the relative merits of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, but favor eventually shifted to Obama. During these conversations you could always pick out the Republican: the quiet one on the other side of the room. Not long after, Obama won the nomination, and later, the election.
That’s when the dreams began, I think. You see, I’d always harbored some kind of grandiose idea that I would be a part of his cabinet. I’m 27, I have some wordly experience, and I have a decent education. Though I have just described a large portion of the U.S. population, I still felt that I was different somehow – worthy of making those important decisions or, at least, toasting a bagel just right.
Since the dreams began, every morning I wake up to disappointment. I am not in the White House, looking over Obama’s schedule and making last-minute changes, nor am I furiously typing a last-minute article that outlines the subtleties of U.S. – China misunderstandings at a societal level (to be stamped and approved by you-know-who before it is published under his name).
Throughout the campaign I badgered the people in his country-wide election offices, offering to help with the campaign. “Even though I am in China, I could still do something… right?” I never heard back.
Part of my thinking was encouraged by the constant emails from the Obama campaign. With the ability to insert my name in the mass email, the Obama people made me feel special - like they were sending me an important email. It sounded to me like, "Listen, Dustin, we couldn't reach you by cell phone. Would you ask the other volunteers which states they're from? We also need some information about the rural Chinese perspective - what exactly do rural Chinese have to say about Obama? Thanks."
But, of course, these emails were more like, "Dustin - if you give 50 dollars today, we'll send you a t-shirt."
So I wake up and here I am: China. I am thriving here now, but getting caught up in this grandiose thinking always leads to disappointment. During the last days of the general campaign, there was an email that said giving a donation now would automatically enter you in a drawing to have dinner with Obama. I immediately sent 20 dollars, about 1 percent of my annual income. The response was a phone call from America, asking if I could help do some last-minute doorbelling. “Sorry,” I said, obviously upset. “I’m in China.”
I haven’t thought of any solutions to this constant dreaming of Obama. How does one control one’s own dreams?
I guess, for now, I’ll have to make the most of my Sunday afternoons with the Obama family. “Come on,” I say to his daughters, “let’s go grab some ice-cream.” Michelle and Barack look on with smiling faces, not thinking that it’s weird at all.