An eternal quest
My reflections post reading ‘Becoming’ by Michelle Obama
“How can you ask a child what will you become when you grow up?” Michelle Obama remarked, on an Oprah Winfrey show. “Life is a journey about who you are becoming, not a destination to get to.” Of all the autobiographies I have read, this one struck a chord with me the most.
Her book speaks to every woman- as an inspiration to find their unique self and flaunt it with style. “If there is one thing I’ve learnt , it’s the power of using your voice” she remarks with a sincerity that is heart warming. And yet to get to this authentic space of being yourself, of speaking your mind for what you believe in; is fraught with struggle. For a life that may seem like she has it all, her fears and doubts are those that every woman goes through. “ Am I good enough?” ran through like a leitmotif for a large part of her early life. One would imagine that a woman with a double Ivy League degree would not have such thoughts plaguing her and that her career path would be all sorted out. Driven by the desire to pursue something meaningful she gave up her career in law; even without an inkling of what she would do next. She found a job at Public Allies after a relentless search.
A vulnerable expression of her doubts and dilemmas make her real, relatable and even more charming. She navigates her many roles, with deep seated conviction, remarkable candour and courage that most of us aspire to possess. A spouse who stood shoulder to shoulder by her man, a mother fiercely protective of her children, a professional determined to contribute to the world meaningfully.
In her childhood, I found many similarities with mine. My parents provided love and care in ample measure but balanced it with discipline. They were directive when they needed to be but also encouraged independent thinking on several matters. Contentment was in the small joys of picnics, a chilled Thumbs Up on a hot summer afternoon, the aroma of freshly baked cinnamon rolls wafting through our home. The invaluable lessons learnt, the love received will always hold me securely in its embrace. Its comfort gives me the strength to push boundaries and experience the joy of uninhibited expression.
The unfolding of Michelle Obama’s love story had me excited like a teenager. In Barack she found a perfect match-an intelligent , sensitive man, much sought after by law firms and firmly rooted in his values. His impish wide grin only adding to his irresistible charm. The romantic bended knee proposal at a routine dinner date is the kind of stuff that all girls dream of. Its wonderful to see how they make adjustments to accommodate each other at different stages. Barack managed two jobs when Michelle chose meaning in her work over money. When he was campaigning for Presidency, she realigned her work schedule to support him and the kids. And just as every love story is not perfect, dark clouds of despair shroud their relationship too. She makes the effort to seek support to bring harmony and love back into the relationship.
While she reluctantly supported her husband’s decision to join politics, she not for once shrunk in his shadow. Her ability to hold her space as a woman of substance is worthy of deep admiration. With all the demands on her that the run up to Barack’s presidency brought in, she fought to pursue her career. On one occasion she didn’t find childcare but was determined to attend an interview for the job she so wanted. She boldly walked in, placed her 3 month old on the table claiming confidently, that she is best suited for the job and her child came with it.” Now that’s definitely what a woman with a voice would do!
At the time when Trump was campaigning, Michelle didn’t hesitate to speak against his misogynistic comments. “When they go low, you aim high” was a mantra that she and Barack followed not because they looked good while taking a higher moral ground, but because they believed it was the right thing to do.
It’s the underlying thread of optimism that is so palpable in the story of her life. There is no alternative but to have an ‘Audacity of hope’( borrowing the title of Barack Obama’s book). The faith to keep persisting and trumping fear. It’s what gives us the power to keep discovering our unique story. In what one does, who am I becoming- is the real question one should be asking.