In 2008, I was in one of the more unlikeliest of places when I learned that Barack Obama had been elected our 44th president.
I was a senior in college, at Binghamton University in central New York, and I was participating in a beer pong tournament in one of the most popular and notorious bars among students.
It was $3 pitcher night at the Rathskeller, which, in German, translates to “basement.” And it’s called that for good reason. The bar is located in the cellar of another bar.
It’s exactly what you’d expect it to look like. It’s dark, grimy, and the men’s bathroom comprises only troughs to relieve yourself in. It was a favorite among freshmen because the bar was lenient with checking IDs.
But it was there, while throwing a ping pong ball into a red Solo cup on a Tuesday night, where the emcee of the tournament informed us all that Barack Obama had officially won the 2008 presidential election. I believe I shrugged and continued on with my game.
The next day, when visiting a professor for office hours, she talked jubilantly about how she’ll always remember where she was the moment she learned we had elected our first African-American president. When she asked where I was, I lied and said I had been sitting around a TV watching with friends.
In 2012, I was working in my third year as a journalist, covering local elections in Long Island for the majority of election night. It wasn’t until I got home, close to midnight, when I learned that Obama had defeated Mitt Romney to earn a second term. I was mildly more interested than I was four years ago.
In 2016, I am four years older, four years wiser, and infinitely more invested in who becomes the next president. The stakes are much higher than they’ve been in any of the last two elections, and like everyone else, I have been ridden with anxiety over who will win.
But at the same time, I am also appreciating the significance of the moment. You only live through so many presidential elections in your life — and even less presidents — and we may never experience another contest that is crazier than this one. Furthermore, we quite possibly are on the verge of electing our first woman president.
I am not at a bar, and I am already home from work. I will be experiencing this election right here, at home, with my cat and all of you.
This will be an election season that we will be talking about for the rest of our lives. Its significance may fade over time, like everything does, but it will certainly never be forgotten.
One day, we may all be telling our grandkids about what it was like to live in America in 2016. And today is the culmination of that period.
So just savor it a little bit. It’s obviously a tense night, and we’re all feeling a little high-strung as we await the full results over the next few hours — but at the same time, try to appreciate the historical significance of what we are all currently experiencing.
And then tomorrow, we can focus ourselves on the day after. Because the real impact that will be felt from today’s results is how we react as a nation.
We have two options: stay divided or come together.
Which road we choose will determine how we will be remembered for generations to come.
Here’s hoping for a happy ending.