Thoughts On Becoming by Michelle Obama
Michelle Obama is known to many as a role model, a woman worthy of admiration and emulation but in her renowned memoir she becomes someone different, someone more close to home. Like a long lost beloved aunty that you finally get to meet in person after hearing many endearing stories. You finally get a chance to be in the presence of this beforehand-distant-greatness. Now you’re given a chance to take it all in and be enthralled anew but in a more realistic and lasting way because now you see things as they really are; bare of all the maskings of fame and acclaim. You realise she’s just like you with the same desires to be loved, make a difference and live a good life. It makes sense because she’s stark honest and because she’s honest, you also believe you can become.
In the beginning Michelle introduces us to her background and what it was like to grow up in the south side of Chicago, living in the top floor of the duplex that is her auntie’s home (her auntie who goes on to teach her to play the piano whilst unveiling the stubborn side to Michelle’s character) with her close knit nuclear family in a cluster of many family relations on both her mother and father’s side. We get the feel early on that her family is a close one and a strong source of support, be it from her older brother, who was a star kid all through school and paved the way for her in various ways most of which involved giving her social capital or her mother who stayed home to make sure meals were made when they got back from school and the home was in one piece or her father who she often spoke of like he was some kind of meta God balancing work and life seemlessly which made it all the more hard when we learn he dies from suffering Multiple Sclerosis for several years later in the book.
This great loss and another (of a dear friend) set the stage for deep introspection on the meaning and point of life for Michelle. She soon realizes she does not have much care for being a lawyer and in a courageous swerve veers into the scene of volunteering, community work and policy making. Here she finds more joy and fulfilment. Here she finds life worth living.
Finding love for Michelle was unexpected and quite fast paced. She describes her first impression of Barack as being unimpressive especially his lateness and smoking but all that is moved past in a blur as they begin to get to know each other. The realness of their love story doesn’t shield them from the challenges that plague regular couples though. And luckily for us, our aunty Michelle doesn’t shy away for talking about it all; infertility, insecurities, motherhood, conflict, therapy. This totally destroys the myth of perfect couples; and this is good for us. We see that all relationships require constant work the stay alive.
Barack’s venture into politics did not always appeal to Michelle but she was sold once she saw the potential of her husband to do some good. It became impossible to ignore that he could make a real difference. And he did didn’t he? Perhaps the most significant difference the American government has seen till date.
Becoming is the type of book you read when you’re between choices, when you don’t know what to do or when you know exactly what to do. It’s the right reading choice not because it provides all the answers but because it tells you a story, a story like yours and shows you that your own story is also being written, that you too are becoming. And maybe, just maybe that’s all we need to keep going.