Michelle Obama’s story was one I was keen on reading because after months of introspection and personality tests, I found out that I had her character (online tests…). So I wanted to know her because through knowing her I hoped to better understand who inhabited the mass of flesh I called myself.
(I know, extremely self-flattering but I didn’t choose my results!)

Who is this woman and why do we keep hearing about her?

There weren’t any major philosophical ideas that stuck with me but for one I saw her rise in status over the course of a few pages, I saw the grit it took, the self-deprivation, always with the goal of getting better. She had scaled her world and she wasn’t going to settle for anything less than ideal.

Behind this, however, was the fact that she was a people-pleaser. She sought for affirmation and approval from the people around her. That’s why dating Barack Obama, who was an intern at her law firm would become a challenge, that’s why she found it hard to leave a well paid job in corporate law for a less paid but infinitely more gratifying job in civil law at the University of Chicago’s hospital.

But that’s not the only reason why. You would also have to understand her childhood neighborhood, Southside Chicago :

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As a young lady she would walk down her streets on her way home from high school with her keys spread through a fist, in case she had to face a threat. She was also growing up at a time when the white population was fleeing to better neighborhoods.
She would become one of a few privileged students who would have the chance to move on to obtain a higher education in elite universities.

Her parents also contributed to her mindset. Showing the importance of her and her brother’s education in the sacrifices they made.

This book was very inspirational. Reading it, I saw that sometimes tough decisions must be made, and sometimes these decisions would have disappointing results. I saw the importance of family and not just blood relatives but the people we surround ourselves with who fill our inner beings with joy and laughter :

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She opened up about so much.
Balancing work and personal life, accommodating her husband’s increasing notoriety in politics, bearing children relatively late, being the first black first-lady of the United stated, the nuisance of media attention, of first family security protocols…

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It was a very beautiful read. The overarching theme was that the whole process can be beautiful.
At university when Michelle felt like she didn’t have a voice she worked harder to let her grades prove a point and knitted lifelong friendships along the way.
When it came to campaigning, parenting, her marriage… Michelle identified her problems, turned them into challenges and eventually she overcame. Sometimes her success was blaring but other times it was barely a success, almost a getting-by but she always overcame.

 

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The energy I felt thrumming in that school had nothing to do with obstacles. It was the power of nine hundred girls striving…

That to me was truly beautiful. In life no matter where we are, we are always in the process of becoming. We are always in the process of bringing out the best of ourselves. Every decision we make takes us one step closer and it might seem scary when you realize that each decision defines your life forever. But it is in fact one of the most beautiful things in life.

No situation has to be a dead end.

I am grateful to Michelle for her honesty in writing this book. Opening up about so much and laying her emotions bare for us to read and learn from.

Finally, in reading this book, I felt like she was more of a big sister than a second me. I have barely started a professional life and I am just beginning to face my own big life-changing decisions but I better understand the power there is in speaking up for one’s self and in always striving for change.

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