I rarely ever listen to audiobooks when I’m at home. I enjoy curling up by the fire during winter break to read a good book. Instead, I save audiobooks for long drives. However, when given the option to listen to Becoming read by Michelle Obama, offering a first person account of her life so far, I jumped at the chance. When I listened to Becoming, I felt as if I was talking with a close friend, someone who thinks of herself as “an ordinary person who found herself on an extraordinary journey”. During our time together, we were discussing our ambitions, our fears, our marriages and our children. We talked about what it was like to balance our career goals alongside those of our husbands. We discussed the intense love that we have for our children and how we poured all of ourselves into raising them in the best way we knew how. I listened when she shared their impressive and meteoric rise to the highest office and into the best known address in the world. All the while, as I listened, I observed how she remained true to the person she was before that rise. She knew who she was at her core and none of that would change.
This was Michelle Obama in Becoming, the gift that she has given to the world about what life was like before, during, and in the brief time after being the first family of the United States of America. While the stories of her upbringing, her early career, her union with Barack and other details of her life were both intimate and precious, it is the relatability that I found to be the most endearing aspect of all. Michelle’s epilogue says it all. “At fifty-four, I’m still in progress…Becoming requires equal parts patience and rigor. Becoming is never giving up on the idea that there is more growing to be done.”
The thread that weaves through Becoming is the element of being authentically yourself in order to connect with others. Michelle Obama was able to open up to share her story in a way unique to so many in the public eye. She has tremendous self-awareness and knows her core values- integrity, responsibility, family- and she never wavered from them. She was able to be flexible and adapt when love for her husband trumped her need to be rigid, hyper organized, and dedicated only to her career growth. She did this because she was guided by her inner moral compass to do what she knew was the right thing to do- for her country and, because of her core values, for herself.
When it comes to knowing yourself in order to connect with others, she leaves this valuable advice- “It’s not about being perfect. It’s not about where you get yourself in the end. There’s power in allowing yourself to be known and heard, in owning your unique story, in using your authentic voice. And there’s grace in being willing to know and hear others.”
Thank you for sharing your story, Michelle. I am enriched by hearing about your path so far to becoming and I look forward to our next conversation.