By Michelle Obama
I read and listened to Becoming over Thanksgiving weekend in fall 2018. It was the first Thanksgiving I spent alone (and did so willingly). I had just returned from Peru, Houston and I was craving the alone time, plus I'd spend the long Christmas break with my family in a few weeks.
It was strange times because I'd also felt a lump in my breast that week and spent much of that weekend imagining the worst, so I fluctuated between feeling panic about that and comfort from Michelle's tales. (A week later, doctors confirmed it was a benign cyst.)
I alternated between listening (and loved hearing it in Michelle's voice) and reading, unintentionally deciding to read the more poignant parts: her emotional tribute to her late friend Suzanne, describing her father's love—felt a pang in my heart, meeting Barack Obama for the first time. I sat in silence with those stories and felt their impact more profoundly.
Here are my notes sitting in drafts of best observations/takeaways/lessons:
- vulnerability is everything; & I appreciated that she shared hers
- the power of telling your own story &
- recalling all of the sights and sounds of your life—she was so good at this
- learn your self-worth & hold onto it
- know yourself before partnership
- children are so valuable and so is making them feel seen
- therapy works and is necessary! especially with a partner
- forget checking all of your boxes in life
I've felt quiet since the beginning of the year, struggling to use my voice in a meaningful way. I've a lot going on. I recognize when I'm less confident because words escape my mouth like whispers and my sentences taper off. I'm grappling with how to express what's inside while often feeling like an outsider. I feel this extra after a trip to the Dominican Republic where I experienced more discomfort and disconnection (and growth?) than I expected. This rings true:
"Everyone seemed to fit in, except for me. I look back on the discomfort of that moment now and recognize the more universal challenge of squaring who you are with where you come from and where you want to go. I also realize that I was a long way, still, from finding my voice."(p. 41)At the same time, I know the feeling is fleeting and, one day, like Michelle, I'll reflect on this time with similar wisdom.
Here I'd also like to show love to two memoirs I read recently. I don't have excerpts but they are wonderful.
Malala Yousafzai's I am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up For Education and Was Shot
- I expected to read Malala's life story and be impressed. What I didn't expect:
- To learn her father was the intrinsic piece; her devotion to education came from his example—& his bravery in educating children, including girls in face of the Taliban; he is a hero & his love for her is enduring and likely was her saving grace.
- Her homesickness to affect me so deeply. It's the primary thing I remember from her memoir. She wants desperately to return to her beautiful home and can't.
- I was in awe of his ability to reflect on all of his experiences—big, small, traumatic, enlightening—growing up in post-apartheid South Africa with humor, wisdom, forgiveness, and acceptance. At the young age of 36!
- I listened to this via Audible the whole way through and, swoon. Love his voice.