Wednesday, March 27, 2019
Now I think it’s one of the most useless questions an adult can ask a child—What do you want to be when you grow up? As if growing up is finite. As if at some point you become something and that’s the end.
~Becoming (2018) by Michelle Obama
Sometimes a work is so important that it becomes difficult to put into words what you thought and felt while reading it. Most often (for me, anyway) that happens with poetry. It has happened again with Michelle Obama's memoir. This is a powerful and moving story of her journey--a journey of becoming that is still going on. A process that doesn't stop as long as you are willing to keep learning and growing and changing when necessary.
Reading about Michelle's early years, I was struck by how similar our backgrounds were. A mother who was there, at home whenever we were home (though mine worked part-time in the school lunch room--she was there when I left for school in the morning and there when I got home in the afternoon). A father dedicated to hard work and supporting his family--a man who never let physical ailments stand in the way of his responsibilities to go to work and get the job done. A feeling as a student that it was unthinkable to not excel. And not because parents put out any kind of overt pressure that grades must be at a certain level--but knowledge that those parents had done everything they could to ensure their children would have a better life and knowing that we didn't want to disappoint them...or ourselves.
It was inspiring to read her reflections on where she came from and where her journey had taken her. To have underlined the evidence that she and Barack Obama are good people who come from solid American families; who value the same things we all value (or should value if we don't). Unfortunately, it was also disturbing to read her personal experiences of what it was like to be on the receiving end of all the hate and racial diatribes and the down-right lies that confronted and followed them once her husband began his political ascent to the nation's highest office. Reading newspaper reports--even viewing it on television is one thing; reading about the personal toll it took on Michelle and her family is another. It reminds me how truly horrible some people are at being human.
But--that's not the take-away that Michelle would want us to end with. She reminds us throughout the book that whoever we are and wherever we are, we can take what we're given and make the most of it. We are all in the process of becoming and where we have the power to do so we need to take control and become with a purpose--choose to become more than we are now, to become a better version of ourselves. And to encourage others to do the same. ★★★★★