It aint easy being cheesy

It happened without fanfare. I don't celebrate the anniversary. The shift was slow, happening over years not days. Even with the benefit of hindsight, the transition from cheesy to charming was too subtle to define with time. Somewhere on the way to Rev. I lost my street cheese cred. The only reason I'm noticing it now is because I've seen glimpses of the past recently: producing a cheesy video that makes me laugh uncontrollably; singing out of tune with my mic on in worship and laughing along uncontrollably while my boys kill me over it every day for two weeks; requesting a birthday dessert and song for myself from the waiter at a nice restaurant this weekend. This stuff might seem trivial, but it's not. If you cut me open you'd find an Ethiopian immigrant with enough sense to know that life is often senseless, unfair, and painful. No matter how hard you try, there will be days when it seems like every star in the sky has conspired against you. Immigrants have more of these days than others, especially early on. So we learn to defend against the vicissitudes of life by laughing at our own bad luck, bad English, and bad wardrobes. There is nothing cheesier than an African immigrant who knows just enough English and pop culture to tell a joke, e.g. Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall in Coming to America.

Over time we learn how to fit in, which is generally good. But to do so we must give up something of our own. We must forget a part of our story. I gave up my immigrant cheesiness in exchange for enough charm to be taken seriously. It served me well until I realized how much more fun it is to be yourself.