trying to come together and live in one house, we’re raised in different ways with different sets of insecurities and strengths coming together to try to do one thing, which is to build one life and to raise children! Oh my god that’s when it really… that’s the most important joint project you will ever have in your life, is to raise another human being that you love more than anything in the world. I don’t love my kids more than Barack loves my kids but I think I do. That makes it hard. So when young couples hit on hard times, which there will be, too often because they have this expectation that it shouldn’t be hard and love is easy, they quit too easily, they walk away and they don’t do the work. Marriage is just like anything that’s worth anything, it requires work. Marriage is a choice, it’s a choice you make every day and you better be with somebody who wants to make that same choice and do that work because that’s when people break up, somebody goes, ‘This was harder than I really wanted it to be’ and if the other person isn’t ready to put in the time… so Barack and Michelle Obama with a wonderful marriage – we work at it and we work at it every day. And it is worth every second of the work. So for young couples – if it’s hard, you’re right on track. You’re going to be ok. But yes, we both found that we had to make huge compromises. I mean I hated politics.


Which brings us to Barack becoming president and making it historic by being the first African-American president. How did you both approach taking office? I think we approached it like we’ve got to be better, smarter, faster, we have to work harder – because the bar is different for us. We knew that. I don’t write about this in the book because I actually forgot about it but on the final plane ride after Trump’s inauguration, when we’re flying to our regular life, I got on the plane and I’m waving but when those doors closed I think I cried for 30 minutes. And it wasn’t just the day and what happened in the day but I think it was the culmination of eight years or ten years of feeling like we had to be perfect, that we had to watch every word, we couldn’t make any mistakes, we had to represent, we had to make people proud, we had to prove ourselves in ways that we did, for eight years. And I’m so proud of my husband and his administration. The margin of error is small – and we felt that. Barack couldn’t golf. We had to start there. There’s so much that would have been an outrage for us and we knew it. There wasn’t any room for anybody in our administration to be indicted. And that wasn’t just on us, that was on everyone who worked with us. So we had to be highly ethical. There was a whole lot that we had to watch. We had to be excellent in ways that can be exhausting and everyone around us had to be as well. Because everybody knew that if one person messed up down the line, it would make Barack Obama look bad and I certainly felt that way. I felt like I needed to be outstanding and that’s how many of us women, people of colour, where we’re the only ones there is a burden that we can’t mess up because they’re not going to let anybody else get this chance if you don’t do it right. But we were also used to that – excelling and operating at a high pace because, as I said earlier, many of us do have the talents and the gifts and the abilities and the knowledge to be absolutely excellent because we’re smart and we’re hardworking and we care and we’ve got good values and that all starts with the first part of my book. It’s like how I was raised, who my father was, those working-class folks. I wasn’t just trying to make the country proud, I was trying to make my grandfather proud, the people who couldn’t, who worked and

missed those opportunities. I wasn’t going to show up raggedy for those people.

The title of your book ‘Becoming’ is so important as to how we should be in our own lives – you never stop growing, you’re always evolving? Where do you see your journey going next? And what would you tell your younger self? I would tell my younger self ‘Don’t be driven by fear’. Learn to live in that fear a little bit. Because fear is the thing that keeps us from growing. I have relatives, people I love dearly who stop growing because the notion of pushing beyond what they know and what’s comfortable is just so frightening and terrifying that it felt better to just stay put. And practising living with your fear. Because fear is part of the transition. And if you can just get used to it, if you can get used to the fact that the fear comes in a wave and it goes away. That even the new stuff becomes old and it becomes welcoming and it becomes familiar. And for me I’d had the beauty of practising that fear, practising transitions, practising that leaving one thing and moving to the next thing isn’t terrifying, in fact it’s enlightening, it’s eye-opening, it’s refreshing. I want more young people to get used to that, to live in that fear, to get comfortable with it so that it doesn’t choke you up and it doesn’t leave you stagnant. Because where would we be if we weren’t ‘Becoming’. I mean what would be the alternative. As I say in the book, the most useless question in the world to ask a kid is, ‘What are you going to be when you grow up?’ as if growing up is finite. That at some point you get to a place and that’s it. To me that’s death. And if you’re not dead then we all should be working towards that next new thing that we’re going to be, that next new person, that next new opportunity. I have no idea what the next chapter will hold and that’s exciting. What I do know now is that I’m ready for whatever the opportunity holds. And I want to read one last thing. One of my favourite endings to the book, to me that sums up what I think my message is: ‘So many of us go through life with our stories hidden, feeling ashamed or afraid when our whole truth doesn’t live up to some established ideal. We grow up with messages that tell us that there is only one way to be American, that if our skin is dark or our hips our wide, if we don’t experience love in a particular way, if we speak another language or come from another country, then we don’t belong. That is until someone dares to start telling that story differently.’ That’s what my hope is.

That all of our stories are the quintessential American stories. That all these memories that we have, these sights and these sounds - that this is what we share. The fact that so many different people all over the world see themselves in this story of this little black girl is just telling about how much we are connected. And if we can just tap into our stories and be brave enough to be truthful and then share them with each other then I hope maybe we break down these crazy barriers of fear that were built up because of the colour of somebody’s skin, because of who they love, because of how they talk, because of where they were born. That stuff means nothing! It’s our stories and we share them across the planet. So let’s not be fooled. Don’t let anybody tell us that we don’t have things in common, we absolutely do.



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