Politics aside, I find the Obama family story to be riveting. It is a story of firsts on many different levels. I am fascinated by those with a pioneering spirit; perhaps because I am the polar opposite. “Becoming” did not disappoint. Not only did I gain insight into the roots of these pioneers and get a peek into life as a presidential family, but I found out I actually do have a few things in common with Michelle Obama after all.
I was cautious. I stuck to what I knew…the subtle cues that tell you not to risk anything.
Reading Michelle’s words reminded me of the windfall that comes with reading a good book; the chance to stumble upon emotions and behaviors I recognize in myself but could never find the words to express.
I lived like a half-closeted CEO, quietly but unswervingly focused on achievement, bent on checking every box. My to-do list lived in my head and went with me everywhere. I assessed my goals, analyzed my outcomes, counted my wins.
Michelle speaks to how being a box checker entails seeing everything through to the end whether it is a good situation or not. I have navigated rocky roads because that’s the path I chose, not necessarily because it served me well.
I cared too much, in general, about finishing what I’d started, about seeing every last thing through to the absolute heart-stopping end.
She wrote about her craving for routine and order; the need for a sense of completeness; and the strong tendency to adapt rather than break free. This is relatable in several scenarios; education choices, job changes and sustaining relationships. Some may associate this with a fear of change, but it’s not so much a fear as it is a distorted perception of the world as you think it should be.
After this, our commonalities diverged. She goes on to talk about how this sense of self lit a fire under her to combat challenges, raising the bar higher. I, on the other hand, set the bar lower to be sure I could check those boxes. I get the sense that the high self-esteem instilled in her from birth carried her through. She credits her warm family and extended family who filled her with memories of love, music and with a strong belief in the value of education. Without that, it is hard to imagine her jumping the hurdles she had to contend with in her private life, more pronounced in her public life, of course.
I had nothing or I had everything. It depends on which way you want to tell it.
Many times I ask myself why I blog. I don’t monetize it nor do I plan to. I’m typically a private person, sharing with trepidation. For whom am I writing? Why do I feel lifted after I write and also read the stories of others? Then, as Michelle has been acclaimed, she brought forth clarity and optimism like a breath of fresh air.
There’s power in allowing yourself to be known and heard, in owning your unique story, in using your authentic voice. And there’s grace in being willing to know and hear others.