New Yorkers have been reading the MO book and there’s so much to highlight and discuss with your friends, family and colleagues!
This morning on my own MTA commute, I couldn’t help but notice handfuls of young women, dressed devastatingly chic probably on their way to work, with their head down in the pages of the former First Lady’s new book Becoming by Michelle Obama. Seriously, it seems like everyone has the book and there hasn’t been a viral book like this in a while. It’s giving me major Chicken Soup Soul type of vibes. It’s enjoyable across genres.
The memoir begins with a preface about where she is at the moment in relation to 2018. We get realness from the jump; Mrs. Obama writes about making herself a cheese sandwich in an empty kitchen with the dogs. She confesses she feels lonely with no children to look after years in the spotlight. Admittedly, I was sure she was a hot second from putting in a bid for her presidency, but boy was I wrong!! Chapter One takes the reader way back to a 4-year-old Michelle Obama, who was known as “Miche.” From there we learn about the first time she fucked up in school, to how she dumped her boyfriends and my favorite part, how she fell in love with our 44th President of the United States Barack Obama! I really do miss the Obamas! Every 10 pages, I found myself emotionally overwhelmed with tears of sadness, happiness, empathy, and love because that’s how much I related to her stories. As a young woman in her twenties trying to sophistically navigate the keys to a successful career, family and love life, this book brought me reassurance as well as hope. Here are 10 things that I learned from Mrs. Obama’s memoir that want to use to get through the rest of my infamous twenties.
McDonald’s / Fast Food Joints serve better food because of Michelle Obama. Throughout the book, she talks about her vegetable garden and how watering plants lead to measurable change in politics, from decrease childhood obesity rates to major fast food companies pledging to improve the quality of food they offer their consumers. As I walk past an McD’s today, I can’t help but have a better opinion about the infamous restaurant. I don’t feel guilty for indulging in their McDoubles because I know I can also order fruit parfait on the side.
Take care of my family and close friends. Mrs. Obama talks deeply about the deaths of people in her life that really affected her emotionally that made her become a better person. I cried when her dad, Mr. Robinson, passed away a few months before she got married to Barack Obama. I felt for Michelle Obama when her best friend Suzanne died in the midst of her busy career as an attorney. It was as though she spoke right to me when she expressed how guilty she felt for not being there for her friend but still valued and cared about her. In my early twenties, I’ve had friends who passed away because of illness, as well as gun violence and I always felt bad because I didn’t give enough of my time to them while they were alive. But how could I when it’s already tough just trying to make it through? Towards the end of the book, when Mrs. Obama was deep into her First Lady job, she talked about attending and speaking at the funeral a young girl from the Southside of Chicago who was killed in gun violence while hanging out at a park. Perhaps this was her reconciliation for her own friend Suzanne who passed away as well as her own way to stay connected to the hood, but it moved me. I learned that family and friends are everything and I have to make time for who I love.
Search for your most authentic voice. More than ever, I feel pressured in society to have it all at the same time. On social media, we are praised for being a girl boss and entrepreneur, but side-eyed if we have nothing going on at the moment. In the book, she writes, “I look back on the discomfort of that moment now and recognize the more universal challenge of squaring who you are with where you come from and where you want to go, I also realize that I was a long way, still, from finding my voice.” In relation to school, there’s always a sense of who belongs and who doesn’t but i do believe school allows you to find your voice.
Be nice to the younger generations. The Biden kids were SO nice to the Obama girls and this is how it should be between any generation. There’s going to be times of inevitable collaboration with people older and younger than you, but the main thing is to be open. Unfortunately, there have been instances where my skills and my friends’ skills and talent weren’t taken seriously in the workplace. Especially when it comes to new technology. Yet some baby boomers and those older would rather work with someone they are familiar with in age. And it sucks when you are experiencing this! Mrs. Obama offered a lot of encourage to those who are trying to take the higher road. I feel like her encouragement matters because even her team while First Lady consisted of all young female millennials who were understanding of motherly duties and childcare. Very often I work with mothers who have busy schedules and I feel it's my obligation to give these women certain privileges. I’ve always been maternal at heart and I don’t think trying to separate it from the “professional” space is worth it, but I take it in small doses. In regard to Mrs. Obama, she wrote a few times about how in awe and thankful she was for their talent and ability to adapt. Yes, the goal is adapting and everyone can bring something to the table.
Which leads me to my daily reminder for 2018: F*ck what other people think of you. Do you! I loved how the book reinforces self-reflection and unapologetic enlightenment. In regard to the “What do you do? Or want to be?” question kids are always asked, Michelle Obama says that clouds the true vision. “This may be the fundamental problem with caring a lot about what others think: It can put you on the established path - the my-isn’t -that-impressive path - and keep you there for a long time.” It’s to say...yes, of course, we should all have flawless resumes, but its OK to fail and fall hard. I felt so horrible knowing that I failed at working in the editorial space after being laid off after 6 months of hard work - coming in early and leaving late. Deep down though, I just wanted to work at the reputable publication instead of focusing on my own. Which in the end is all I had and it worked out because Violet Summer Zine has been my saving grace.
Negotiate your salary and ask for more. I’ve had a few experiences with salary negotiation. During one salary negotiation experience, I woke up one morning with my face swollen! I was stressing over the situation for weeks and I guess it was too much stress for my body. Days prior before my blow up, I started itching violently at night and I don’t have a history of irritated skin. So when I finally sent the email to even discuss my salary to my boss, I was sure I’d pass out from fear. My heart skipped a beat when I finally sent the email. An email! To be clear, my salary anxiety had developed from past bosses frowning upon me asking for more. Then I read how Mrs. Obama negotiated her own salary in her late 20s/early 30s and it made me upset, angry and also enlightened. Angry, because my salary inquiries came out of a need, not a want or a sense of entitlement. Yet, I was made out to be some ungrateful millennial on more than one account all because I needed money to live. Mrs. Obama recounts when she too had to ask for me, she says, “it became clear that if I wanted to join the tribe, I’d have to negotiate my way in, asking for exactly for what I needed in terms of salary...I couldn’t be shy or embarrassed about my needs.” Yassss I absolutely love this part so much I highlighted the paragraph with a pink marker. She basically told her employer how much she borrowed to attend her prestigious universities and how she really needed to live on a certain amount that equated to a salary in order to do the job and excel at it. In the end, her employer gave her what she negotiated and she worked twice as hard knowing her employers valued her worth. After reading that, it made me feel better I too had done the same thing when negotiating a raise!
It’s OK to ditch mediocre boyfriends. For whoever needs to hear this: dump abusers and overusers! The young doyenne of black style taught us early on that it’s okay to date and if you don’t really like the person, dump them. She reminded us that marriage is ideal but if you don’t get that feeling of love then why waste your time?!
Barack Obama. Do I have to write anymore? In this book, the reader gets a full glimpse inside of the genius that was our 44th President of the USA. He is smart, kind, and a family man. But Michelle lets us know that she’s running the ship. She’s that black mom that does everything for her family and is unapologetic when it comes to her girls. I love that she made her children’s bedtime at 8:30 PM and stuck with it, even if her husband was running late. Not to mention, the way he proposed! Ahhh! It made me think about how this family is aspirational as they too financially struggled and was not shy at moving in with parents to catch a break with rent!
Am I good enough? Yes, you are. As a recurring mantra in Mrs. Obama’s narrative, readers are forced to step into her shoes. She truthfully recounted situations were the “aim I good enough?” question tried to block her from her full potential. She basically says she wouldn't have succeeded as First Lady had she not had hardships. With a career, it was finding something that she could be happy doing every day. At home, she wanted to give her girls the same love as her parents gave her growing up. The “Am I good enough?” question proposition is REAL. It’s a question that everyone’s had to deal with at some point. It’s unavoidable.
Her style evolution is BEYOND. As the First Lady, Mrs. Obama knew she would be scrutinized for everything she wore, yet she stayed true to what she knew best choosing items she knew would send a unique message. Her commitment to wearing up & coming designers was rewarded amongst magazine editors and she also lifted these now family but then new designers and brands’ notoriety. I thought it was gossipy to read about the intricacies of what went on in her dressing room, yet I loved it! A dressing room just sounds so chic and old world! We witness how this cinderella woman becomes a real princess that has morals and courage and strength.