It took me a really long time but I finally finished Michelle Obama’s book, Becoming. It was a heavy, multi-layered, slow read that required me to pause and think deeply a lot. I don’t think it’s everyone’s cup of tea but despite some initial doubts, it turned out to be mine.
About a third into the book, I truly connected with Michelle’s story and made my speedier (but still relatively slow) way through the remainder of the book. There is so much to talk about. The importance of recognising that childhood obesity is a health concern. How necessary it is to understand your power including its limitations before one can wield it effectively. The power of preparing long and hard and then delivering like it was effortless. The importance of appreciating and thanking your village. How key it is to understand the concept of “swerving” or changing course in life. How important it is to understand and respect our differences as humans. How ludicrous it is to expect children to know what they want to be when they grownup. How education can change the trajectory of a life. How telling a child that they matter and listening to them speak can create confident adults. How exposure inspires. The power and necessity of sharing our stories. How extraordinary things can happen to ordinary people. How remarkable hard work and preparation often quietly lies behind the perfect execution of a seemingly effortless homerun and the importance of sharing our stories can never be overstated.
I enjoyed all of these things but I think my biggest takeaway was about the concept of “becoming” itself. In Michelle’s own words:
“For me, becoming isn’t about arriving somewhere or achieving a certain aim. I see it instead, as forward motion, a means of evolving, a way to reach continuously toward a better self. The journey doesn’t end. I became a mother, but I still have a lot to learn from and give to my children. I became a wife, but I continue to adapt to and be humbled by what it truly means to love and make a life with another person. I have become, by certain measures, a person of power, yet there are moments still when I feel insecure and unheard.
It’s all a process, steps along a path. Becoming requires equal parts patience and rigour. Becoming is never giving up on the idea that there is more growing to be done.
I’m an ordinary person who found herself on an extraordinary journey. In sharing my story, I hope to help create space for other stories and other voices, to widen the pathway for who belongs and why. I have been lucky enough to get to walk into stone castles, urban classrooms and Iowa kitchens, just trying to be myself, just trying to connect. For every door that’s been opened to me, I have tried to open my door to others. And here is what I have to say finally, let’s invite one another in. Maybe then we can begin to fear less, to make fewer wrong assumptions, to let go of biases and stereotypes that unnecessarily divide us. Maybe we can better embrace the ways we are the same. It’s not about being perfect. It’s not about where you get yourself in the end. The power is allowing yourself to be known and heard, in owning your unique story, in using your authentic voice. And there is grace in being willing to know and hear others. This, for me, is how we become.”