If you haven’t read my previous post yet, I’d encourage you to check it out before reading this one (if you care about continuity).
If you decided to continue reading this post anyway or have already read part one, I’m happy to have you for part two on Michelle Obama’s Becoming:
Meeting Barack Obama. Michelle Obama met Barack Obama during his first day as a summer associate. She humorously recalled having Barack’s resume in her hands after being assigned as his mentor. She imagined him to be a bit nerdy and weird, only to be charmed by his charismatic voice.
Throughout Michelle’s Becoming, she often used the term “swerve”. Swerving meant pivoting your current situation toward your desired end goal. Swerving was a mechanism to adapt and push forward whether by choice or by force.
Michelle quickly realized that Barack was the living representation of swerve. He was born in Hawaii, spoke fluent Indonesian, and graduated from Harvard Law. He planned to run for office. The way that Barack lived his life seemed anything but linear. Michelle’s relationship with Barack meant that swerving was always in the back of her mind, and it wasn’t until she became First Lady that she learned to swerve. A lot.
Entering the White House. Becoming the nation’s first African American First Lady was both unexpected and unintuitive for Michelle. Even when Barack was running his political campaigns, Michelle was set on returning to a normal life. She didn’t think that Barack would become the nation’s first African American president. She instead looked forward to moving on with their lives with normal jobs and raising their two daughters in peace.
Obviously, life didn’t unfold the way she expected.
Michelle had no idea that she’d become First Lady for eight years. Naturally, she sought advice from former First Ladies to learn about their experiences, only to realize that the role was also more fluid and undefined than she expected.
I think something important to note here is how this detour was both in and out of her control. It is entirely possible that your life can stay unperturbed, but more often than not life has a cunning way of sliding curveballs at you.
Michelle saw those curveballs as challenges that she can learn from. She realized that her role as First Lady was very much in her control and leveraged this opportunity to make a difference.
Finding her place in the public eye. One of the challenges Michelle faced was learning to deal with the public scrutiny she received during her time in the White House.
It’s important to realize that life shouldn’t revolve around our career–our family and relationships also provide experiences that are irreplaceable and important for our personal growth. Michelle prioritized her role as a mother for her two daughters before becoming First Lady despite receiving criticism. In a society so demanding and imposing toward public figures, it was refreshing to see her fierce dedication to her family.
As First Lady, Michelle created initiatives to support young students, especially for young black women. Of the initiatives that she led, her efforts to bring students to the White House was the most inspirational for me.
When underprivileged folks are constantly bombarded with messages telling them that they’re not good enough or that they don’t “belong” in elite spaces, it’s difficult not to internalize these words.
Michelle’s enrichment program breaks down those barriers and tackles those misconceptions. When her students left the White House, they felt empowered and unstoppable. In her words, they “walked as if they owned the White House”.
She had a lasting impact on these students because she not only provided them access to elite spaces, but also a support system to thrive in those spaces. A support system is absolutely necessary to meet the unique needs of students to navigate and succeed in spaces that weren’t initially created for them. Michelle blazed her trail and is now helping others to blaze theirs. She actively uses her privilege to foster future leaders who would’ve never fathomed the idea of it. Her dedication to leveling the playing field is admirable and inspirational, and I hope to do the same throughout my own journey as well.
Practicing self-care. Despite her hectic life as a mother, wife, and First Lady, Michelle took the initiative to start running with her close friends. She prioritized her health and well-being by sharing these goals with a supportive, tight-knit community. It was through this sisterhood that she stayed forgiving and grounded with herself.
I often compromised self care for the “hustle” that ended up promoting an endless cycle of exhaustion. I normalized a lot of wear and tear from college, telling myself that I was strong and that I can handle it.
But even the strongest people can break and use a helping hand. In our vulnerability we find hope and solace in each other. It is through our struggles that we can grow even stronger together.
I admired Michelle’s approach and perspective on self care because she came from a similar place of wanting to achieve the American Dream. Both she and I were raised by strong role models who readily sacrificed their own personal needs for the sake of their children’s success. It’s hard not to emulate those characteristics if that was what inspired us to work hard toward our dreams. Michelle decided to break out of that mold to prioritize herself, and I aspire to do a better job of taking care of myself without any remorse.
Final thoughts. Michelle is honestly a blessing that I really needed during a stressful semester. Her experiences and outlook during each stage of her life truly hit home for me. Her vulnerability and insecurities reminded me that no matter what point you’ve reached in your life, there will always be a person or obstacle that will spark self doubt. Criticism, whether self imposed or not, can break you down if you let it consume you. However, if those negative thoughts become your motivation to improve and work hard, your best self can truly thrive.
Michelle’s story reminds us that even the strongest people can break. Relying on others for help doesn’t mean that you’re weak. If anything, it can uplift and make you stronger than you’ve ever been.
I personally struggled a lot with being open to others and seeking help for years, but I’m learning to become more vulnerable, honest, and forgiving with myself. With the turn of the new year, I hope to continue pursuing my passions and keeping those I hold dear closer to me throughout my journey. Thank you for reading, and I hope that you also start the new year strong with positivity and vigor!