Written Feb 3, 2019
It kind of ended out with perfect timing, but my January read for 2019 was the masterpiece that is Michelle Obama’s Becoming. If you haven’t yet read it, I highly suggest you do. Especially if you happen to be a woman and a minority – most, if not all of it, will hit home.
I hope in sharing some of the pieces that most impacted me I can spike your curiosity to devour this gem even more. As Michelle says in the closing, “there’s grace in being willing to know and hear others. This, for me, is how we become.”
In the first few chapters of Becoming, Michelle speaks about her upbringing on Chicago’s South Side. The quaint home that her family shared with her aunt on Euclid Avenue. Her mother and father’s humble backgrounds but keen focus on her and her brothers’ education. Hearing her describe her childhood reminded me so much of mine and enveloped me more and more into her story. Growing up in a lower class family with a single mom who’s entire life revolved around myself and ensuring I’d have a better future than she did, I empathized deeply with the sense Michelle felt of needing to succeed.
Her relationship with her stern, no time for nonsense, mother was extremely heartfelt for me as well. I’ve struggled for a long time with how my mom was growing up. Never much for emotions but the first to offer constructive (brutal) advice on the things I was not doing while I waste time complaining. I’ve often caught myself wondering if I’m the only one in this pickle?! “Advice, when she offered it, tended to be of the hard-boiled and pragmatic variety.” I laughed reading that and gained immediate relief. If she’s molding me to be even half of a version of Michelle Obama, then I guess it’ll all be for the best!
LAWD! First and foremost, Barack… do you have a cousin or something you can send a girls way because SHEESH!!! I will not spoil this for you all because you their love story is so much more beautiful heard from Michelle’s view. The following were my major takeaways:
1) If Barack Obama (who didn’t like making phone calls) can find the time to call his girlfriend at the time because this was her preferred mode of communication then guess what folks??? Y’all better move on from that buster that leaves you on read. (Repeats to self 500 times)
2) If you stumble upon a man/woman in your life who’s sense of purpose seems clear, focused, and ever present compared to yours – don’t stray away from them because you’re intimidated. Michelle recounts how at one point she starts a journal because Barack’s clarity of what he wanted to become was overwhelming to her (Yea, Princeton/Harvard grad and all, she sometimes had her moments. Be kind to yourself sis). She had realized by this point in her life that much of what she had done was because she felt it was “right” and she had never considered what it was she was passionate about. Instead of shying away from the relationship however, she made it a focus to then find these passions for herself. With a partner by her side that encouraged her to be everything she wanted to be and much more, she was able to do so. If the person you happen to be in a relationship with happens to both inspire you, and also awaken doubts about yourself, take that as an opportunity to learn and develop. That person might’ve been placed in your life for you to become something you haven’t yet discovered.
3) Even the Obama’s went to couple’s counseling. Drops mic and exits left. – All jokes aside though, I will rave about the benefits of counseling forever just because it’s helped me so much personally and I can only imagine how powerful it is for a relationship. Get to it.
Giving Back is the Only Way to Continue Empowering Our Communities
Once she becomes First Lady, Michelle has to navigate how she’ll be able to be effective in a role which historically, no one really expected much of other than smiles and graceful appearances at grand events. That wasn’t on Michelle’s radar, and her dedication to get through Princeton and Harvard to later create an incredible career for herself was not about to allow her to sit on the back burner while Barack thrived as Commander in Chief.
Through the programs she built like Lets Move! and Reach Higher, she created spaces in communities which were otherwise forgotten. Her work focused on helping children whether it was through nutrition or education, because she realized that had it not been for the many lucky opportunities that she was afforded growing up, her future could have looked totally different.
This is one of my biggest goals for this next year. I’ve come to realize how lucky I’ve been and how so many people around me have helped me to be where I am now. So, if you catch me posting about volunteering events around the city don’t be surprised at all. If I can help even one chica from the block to grow into something she never dreamed of becoming one day, then I’ll know I’ve made a mark on the world around me.
Obama, Michelle. Becoming. Viking, an Imprint of Penguin Books, 2018.