What’s Your Story? Becoming

Originally published December 2018

It’s interesting where your mind can go when you are reading a memoir.

When someone is sharing their story, I think it’s only natural to try to meet the author on some shared plane of existence. After all, it’s just a person telling their story — not unlike meeting a new friend for coffee and getting the 411 on their childhood, or which house they pledged in college, or the crazy blind date that led to marriage.

So, I have to admit — I was struggling for a short while when I first started “Becoming” — Michelle Obama’s bestselling memoir. As I told a friend at work, I was having trouble getting past the first 100 pages. Not because it wasn’t interesting, but because I’m not pone of those people blessed with an iron-clad memory of my early years, so it can be hard to wrap my head around the detail with which some people remember their childhood.

Then Michelle let an unpopular opinion fly — she is not a fan of Les Miserables. And with that, I knew she could be a soul sister. (Honestly — a few of the tunes are catchy. But Les Miz is just so damn depressing. Glad to know I am not alone in this view.)

And with that is the epiphany for me with this book — that there is so much more we have in common than that which separates us. It’s beyond easy to place celebrity on a shelf. Easy to assume that those with the mostest exist on an entirely different parallel. And yes, I am aware that to an extent, that is certainly true. Still, glimpses like these serve as inspiring reminders that for the most part, we all come from the same or similar surroundings — a home base, parents, elementary school, first boyfriends, college decisions, graduation, work, marriage and family.

Mrs. Obama is not that much older than me, so our life trajectories are not that different. She may technically be a Boomer and I am decidedly Gen X, but her challenges in determining what path to follow are not unlike what a lot of women my age faced heading from college into work and beyond. Can we do it all? Can we be a wife, a mom and maintain the career that sustains us? It’s refreshing to know even those with a much more significant daily purpose and the means to carry it out can still struggle with balance. And guilt. And frustration.

Mrs. Obama’s insight behind major events, too, was revealing in that we can easily compartmentalize our politicians and forget they are human, with families of their own. {Present POTUS not withstanding.)

Maybe, though, what I found most interesting is what I learned about Michelle Obama — that she is driven, determined, and immensely capable. That service and a commitment to making others’ lives better was part of her foundation well before she met her husband. A great read and a formidable voice.

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