“To me, there was magic in the learning.”
– Michelle Obama
Michelle Obama’s book “Becoming” is an excellent read. It is interesting, funny and you can learn a lot from it. I think it is also (or maybe even especially) an excellent read for everyone who is being forced to stay at home because of the Corona Crisis. Why?
Practicalities first: the novel has got 400+ pages, which is great, because we have a lot of time to spend at home and what’s better than having a good read to kill all that time?
Apart from that, the book has got a very positive and uplifting tone, something we do not find in the news nowadays and something we all need more than ever.
The book also contains many life lessons. Let me share two lessons you can find in this book and you can use in this special situation we find ourselves in.
One is that more choice leads to more stress. Many of us experience the opposite right now: more stress because we have little choice. A different perspective may be very welcome.
A second one is that Michelle Obama shows us the power of a loving and caring family and the power of friendships, relationships all of us can use and offer at the moment.
There are many more lessons this book contains. Read on to find out which ones from Michelle Obama’s extraordinary life you can link to your “normal” life in the current Corona Crisis.
The book has got 3 parts: becoming me, becoming us & becoming more. In the middle you find photos illustrating important parts of Michelle Obama’s becoming journey.
The first part of the book is about her youth, how she is shaped by her environment. She comes from a warm and close family, a family that embraces and encourages her. She grows up in a neighbourhood that was mixed when she was young and slowly turned black over the years, race being part of her life and choices again and again.
A few things struck me enormously in this part of the book (and these elements come back in part 2 and 3 of the book again): How a history of slavery and discrimination has influenced the choices Michelle made. How close her family was and how much this means to her. How driven and devoted Michelle was (and probably still is). How major events in your personal life form you. How opposites attract (I am talking “take it easy, relaxed” Barack here and “super planner” Michelle) and how it becomes clear that we are all responsible for our own choices and happiness.
I told you there is a lot to learn from this book😉
Quite a few of these lessons we can apply to our current situation. The Corona Crisis may well influence our lives enormously, not only now, but also in the future. As a young woman, Michelle Obama followed a clearly defined path in her life without giving it a lot of thought: getting the best possible education and becoming a lawyer. It was only when she took time to think about what she really wanted in life and who she really was that she discovered it wasn’t being a lawyer. The current situation will force many of us to think about our lives and choices too. That may well be a positive element of the Corona Crisis if we make good use of it.
It is also important to remember that it is us who determine how happy we are in these weird times. We may have to redefine happiness and/or find other ways to be happy and it is up to each of us to do just that. We cannot change the situation we find ourselves in, but we can make sure to make the best of it. Do not wait for others to do that for you, take the initiative yourself!
The second part of the book is about becoming a couple. It is also about Barack Obama becoming more and more involved in politics and what that means for a partner and a family.
It took Michelle Obama quite some time and willpower to decide to do what was right for her fellow citizens and not just what would be right for her own, small family. That is exactly the kind of choice we are all facing at the moment. We have got a responsibility towards the society we are part of and we should take that responsibility seriously, even if it may mean some sacrifices for ourselves. We are in it together! It is about us (plural) and not me (singular).
The third part of the book is about Michell Obama’s life as First Lady. It was literally a “first”. Never before had there been a black president or first lady and everything they said, did, didn’t say or didn’t do was put under a microscope. Can you imagine what that must have been like? Puts a lot of our own current challenges into perspective, doesn’t it?
I assume that most of you have had to deal with weeks of being forced to stay at home so far, not months or years. Michelle Obama has lived eight years in the White House. The White House may be huge, sure, but also a prison-like place, since she could not leave the house whenever she wanted. Only when security allowed it she could go outside; always being protected against the invisible dangers of the outside world. It took her a while to get used to that. Doesn’t that sound familiar? Protecting yourself against an invisible danger when you step outside your home and needing time to adjust to such a big change in your life?! When she can do it, we can do it, even when it lasts longer and is more complex than we had anticipated.
One final lesson that I want to share with you is this: becoming is not a status, it’s a verb, a never-ending process if you’re open for it.
“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.” – Michelle Obama
Although we can not easily meet others at the moment, it is more important than ever to be willing to know and hear others.
Useful links and additional information:
- For book club discussion material, click here.
- For an interview with Michelle Obama that really adds value to the book itself (I watched it after my read and can only advice you to do so too), watch this. You can also watch this when you are not into reading at the moment, since it will provide you with positive vibes and many of the learnings from the book.
- By the way, “Becoming” may be an excellent book to listen to, since Michelle Obama reads it for you herself!