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Life Lessons from Michelle Obama’s “Becoming”


Book cover of Michelle Obama’s Becoming

Michelle Obama’s memoir is a bestseller for all the right reasons. Regardless of your political affiliations and opinions, this book reflects a new era in politics. The lines between politicians and the contemporary notions of celebrities are becoming more and more blurred. The way that we consume, critique, and engage with politics and celebrities is changing through social media, publications (like memoirs), and talk shows/T.V.. Michelle Obama’s experiences as first lady reflect that change and I feel it gives us an insight to how things are changing for better and/or worse (depending on how you want to look at it).

Life lessons has become a bit of a blog theme for some my reviews and I think it can be a great way to apply literary discussions to our everyday lives. And after reading Obama’s memoir, I felt that there are some great life lessons that we can all use.

TAKE UP SPACE

Obama mentions throughout her novel how her height was perceived and received throughout her time as first lady. Michelle is around 180cm (5’9), which for a woman is considered tall. As a fellow tall woman, I felt like I connected with Michelle’s stories of how her height influenced how her appearance, intelligence, and value. I have been called a lot of nasty names for being tall. I feel like it stems from the idea that women cannot be taller than men, we should be small, tiny, thin. We shouldn’t take up space. Being a tall woman means that you also perform femininity outside of the social norms that are set for women. Furthermore, we see this through diet ads asking us to shrink ourselves or makeup commercials telling us how to soften our features. Whether you’re tall or short, or fat or thin or anything in between don’t be afraid to take up space. Don’t be afraid to live your life to the capacity that you want. Don’t let other people’s opinions or expectations dictate your life. There are several moments in the memoir where Obama shows her blatant disregard for people telling her she cannot take up space and I think we could all do a bit more of that.

GROW SOMETHING

Obama talks about her vegetable garden at the White House and the programs that she created around gardening and healthy eating. She talks about learning how to garden and the joy it brought her to know that she was eating her own crop and helping others get fresh fruits and vegetables. I am an advocate for gardening, but it can be hard if you live in a big city and space, and dirt, is hard to come by. However, that shouldn’t stop you from trying. Mint, verbena, and basil are really easy to grow in pots. So are chilly plants, lemon grass, and tomatoes. Sure you mightn’t be able to forego visiting the shops, but you will be able to make some tasty teas and a spicy arrabiata sauce.

Growing things brings you closer to nature and can give you a real sense of accomplishment. Even simply having house plants that you won’t eat can bring joy and some clean air to your apartment. So, what are you going to plant next?

BE KIND TO YOURSELF

Life will never stop. Curve ball after curve ball will get thrown your way. Life will try to kill you with boredom and then suddenly try to attack you with seven stressful things before breakfast. No matter what is going on in your personal life, the rest of the world will keep spinning and time will go on like a steamroller. There isn’t much you can do about it. However, remember to look after yourself. Try to get some alone time in. You don’t need to do anything. Even staring at a wall for 15 minutes will do. When you can, be kind to yourself. When you feel like you deserve it the least, still be kind to yourself.

Obama describes a scene where she is alone in her house. It is after her husband’s presidency has finished and they are settling into ‘civilian’ life. She is sitting outside enjoying the nice weather and just reflecting on her life and family. That is the sort of kindness and moments you should try to give yourself. The world will be waiting for you when you are ready to check back in.

These are my life lessons that I took away from “Becoming”. What will you be trying to do more of in 2019? As always, share the reading love.


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