Here’s linked excerpt from Vanity Fair about a young man in the 1980’s who is try to find himself while in New York studying at Columbia University….
The author uses insights from Barack Obama’s ex-girl friend at the time Genevieve Cook…..
Obama, who everybody recognizes as black …..IS really mixed and more, having grown up in Indonesia, Hawai and the states…
Being 22 he was trying to figure out things…..
And the traces of who he is today was trying to settle in….
Adapted from Barack Obama: The Story, by David Maraniss, to be published this month …..
Barack Obama transferred from Occidental College to Columbia University in 1981, his junior year. Although he left Los Angeles with enough ambitious propulsion to carry him into a more active period, he instead receded into the most existentialist stretch of his life. As he put it himself decades later during an interview in the Oval Office, “I was leading a very ascetic existence, way too serious for my own good.” In most outward ways, compared with what had come before, his life in New York was a minimalist one, without the sprawling cast of characters that had surrounded him at Oxy and in Hawaii and Indonesia. He felt no attachment to Columbia or to the first jobs he landed after graduation. But it would be a misreading to say that he was tamping down his ambitions during that period. Just the opposite, in fact. If anything, his sense of destiny deepened. He was conducting an intense debate with himself over his past, present, and future, an internal struggle that he shared with only a few close friends, including his girlfriends, Alex McNear and Genevieve Cook, who kept a lasting record, one in letters, the other in her journal.
“where am i going?”
It is exponentially easier to look back at a life than to live it forward. In retrospect it becomes apparent that New York was crucial to Obama. If he had not quite found his place yet, he was learning in which directions not to go and how to avoid turns that would lead him off the path and into traps from which it would be hard to escape. Even when he was uncertain about much else, Obama seemed hyper-alert to avoiding a future he did not want.
At age 20, Obama was a man of the world. He had never been to south-central Kansas or western Kenya, the homelands of his ancestors, yet his divided heritage from Africa and the American heartland had defined him from the beginning. He could not be of one place, rooted and provincial. From his years living in Indonesia, where he was fully immersed in Javanese schools and culture; from his adolescence in Hawaii, where he was in the polyglot sea of hapa and haole, Asians and islanders; from his mother’s long-term commitment to development work overseas; from his friendship with Pakistani students at Occidental and his extended visit to their country—from all of these he had experienced far more global diversity than the average college junior. He knew the ways of different cultures better than he knew himself…..
Obama and Cook in the 80’s….