I’m more than a little late to the program, but I finished reading Barack Obama’s first memoir today. This is the book he wrote that wasn’t a policy book. (That one was The Audacity of Hope; I’m less interested in that for whatever reason.)
Until a week ago, DoMF had been collecting dust on my nightstand. I had been meaning to get to it for a long while. I’m glad I finally did.
It was an unexpected and very memorable reading experience for me. I expected to learn more about the President’s family history and to perhaps gain more insight into the youthful indiscretions I’ve heard other people talk about. But I didn’t expect the book to be about forgiveness. And I didn’t expect it to move me to re-evaluate my (very complicated) relationship with my own dad.
I know the biggest hang-up there is my inability to forgive. Children of parents who, let’s say were less-than-present, tend to remember, in detail, not just missed birthdays, soccer games or Christmases, but also the Starter jacket that was always in the mail, the missed school trip because the check never arrived, and with pinpoint accuracy, the times you said you’d call and didn’t.
Granted, this gives an adult child a lot of leverage in the where-were-you argument twenty years down the line. But it’s a lot of anger and hurt to carry around, and that usually becomes a hindrance.
This makes it all the more remarkable that Obama really hashed these issues out with himself at an early age. His father had been dead for several years already. And yet he felt the need to take a hard look in the mirror and go in search for the answers to questions that many adults never, ever ask themselves.
He didn’t wait for some catastrophic, life-changing event to prompt him into action. He just made the decision that to be a better man, he needed to deal with his past. And so he did.
I’m telling you, when you get to know someone who hasn’t done any internal work on themselves, it can be glaringly obvious. And sad. They have no idea who they are or what they want or how they should function in the world.
Politics aside, the maturity and self-exploration Barack Obama displayed then is worth emulating. Walking the road of forgiveness — true forgiveness, not just the kind you say but the kind you feel — can be a very scary road. But it sure looks like it’s worth it.
After all, aimlessness is almost always worse than failure.