Michelle Obama's 'Becoming' Redefined My Definition Of Success
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Politics and Activism

Michelle Obama's 'Becoming' Redefined My Definition Of Success

A book that taught me more than just her life story.

Michelle Obama's 'Becoming' Redefined My Definition Of Success

This past Christmas, I was gifted Michelle Obama's Becoming by my parents. I only started reading it once I got back to school, and quickly found myself taking any free time to read it- partly due to the fact I have always had an interest in the Obamas, and also because I realized a great deal of similarity between her personality and my own.

While I had an entirely different upbringing for all sorts of reasons, I found myself identifying with her work ethic and drive. She mentions that growing up, she naturally did well in school and found herself getting increasingly competitive as she saw others around her who were also succeeding. As she got older and was in high school, her primary motivation for success was for herself- in that others' doubt is what drove her to work hard and do well.

While naturally gifted, she believed that it was her dedication and time committed to her schoolwork that allowed her to be successful and earn her acceptance into Harvard Law.

Following her graduation from Harvard Law School, Michelle Obama worked at a law firm in Chicago for years, which is also where she initially met Barack Obama. Something she saw in Barack that she did not see in herself was his little care for financial success.

He worked for years earning a meager $12,000 working on the southside, and even as a well respected Harvard Law graduate, never wanted to pursue the many offers he was given. Rather, he was focused on inequalities in society, in many aspects, and believed his fulfillment would come from addressing these in the utmost way he could, as a civil rights lawyer.

Michelle mentioned several times that it was difficult at times to live with someone so sure of their purpose because she felt her sense of purpose was not as set in stone. She had been so intently focused on her schoolwork and making sure it was perfect that she never took the time to see if her success would align with her interests, at one time saying "Somehow, in all my years of schooling, I hadn't managed to think through my own passions and how they might match up with work I found meaningful."

She found herself no longer accepting of complacency and determined to have more joy and meaning in her life.

Throughout my time reading her book, I often caught myself thinking, "I so get where she's coming from." At a young age, I was called "smart" by my peers, which I honestly didn't really understand until I started being held to what I felt were noticeably higher expectations than some around me. Being the competitive person I am, I always saw to it that I fulfilled, if not exceeded, these expectations.

In high school, I took every AP class I could regardless of my interest in the topic (AP Chemistry, really?). I genuinely feel that wasn't a terrible decision because I consider myself pretty well rounded because of it. However, that was definitely not the reason I signed up for the classes at the time.

Even now, in college, where I chose a school because of its great reputation for my program (international business), I often find myself struggling to find my passion. I wonder if business is something that long term will make me fulfilled, or if it will just fill my pockets. I can honestly say I don't have an answer to that question, but after reading "Becoming," I have redefined the "success" I'm after from a place of financial success to a place where I am genuinely happy.

Reading that someone as successful and respected as Michelle Obama also had these same doubts is reassuring. I, like her, am intimidated by people who seem to have it all figured out and unashamedly so. While reading this book did not help me figure out my entire life plan, I certainly feel like I have a deeper understanding of what drives me as well as perspective on what path for my future will make me most fulfilled. As she talks about in her book, life is shorter than we sometimes anticipate, so live it.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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