Writing about Writing with Nana Elikem … Michelle Obama, Becoming, And A New Track For My Writing


I recently watched the 2020 Netflix-produced documentary on Michelle Obama’s book tour following the release of her book in 2018. Becoming (the documentary) is basically an intimate look at the life of the former first lady of the United States, her hopes and connection with others as she tours with Becoming (the book).

I found the documentary inspiring just as I did the book though I have not finished reading it. An important theme of the documentary is Michelle Obama’s life after the White House. The film gets right into it in the first minute and a half when Oprah Winfrey asks Michelle, “Can we talk about leaving the White House? When you got on the helicopter, did you say, ‘Free at last. Free at last’?”

I was quite interested in that myself. I’ve always imagined it to be a big change. How does one adjust from life as one half of the most powerful couple in the world? Additionally, my interest in Michelle Obama’s post-White House life comes from the fact that (my) life is in constant transition. We are constantly being and becoming. Daily, we are making adjustments to the things that are changing in our lives. The more fascinating thing is things change whether we acknowledge them or not, whether we anticipate them or not and whether we like them or not, giving credence to a quote attributed to Heraclitus, i.e. “The only constant in life is change”.

In my estimation, Michelle Obama is an authority on dealing with change. One day, after an election, she has to move her family into the seat of the US government and get used to a life that is miles different from what she is used to – especially the scrutiny that comes with it. How does life prepare anyone for that? And then, after eight years, all of that life ends. And the question is “what’s next”? Moving into and out of the White House is not the only change the author and mother of two daughters had to deal with. She had to make major adjustments to her life when she met her husband, knowing the kind of person he was, his aspirations and where he could get to in life. Also, she talks about how things changed with the birth of their children, especially with her career.

Michelle Obama makes a poignant statement in her book which should suffice to the question that lingered on my mind with regards to dealing with change. She said, “… in life you control what you can.” My interpretation is that while we may not be able to control the changes that happen to us and around us, we can definitely control how we react to these changes. But this also births a predictable yet important question. How? How do you control what you can?

I got my answer to this question in the 14th minute of the documentary. In a closed session with a couple of girls on the book tour in 2018, one of the participants asked, “How do you feel? Like… How do I put this? How do you feel, transitioning back to your normal life? Because, like, it got interrupted… It was, like, a huge bump in the road. You thought you were going to live this normal life, and then your husband became the president. So, how does it feel like, trying to get back on the track of your normal life – that you had before?’’

This is the question I probably would ask Michelle Obama or anyone who has had a life similar to hers. I have asked some people close to me before. I have also read and observed how other people have struggled with adjustment and change similar to this.

Listening to Michelle Obama’s response to this question changed my perspective on life and handling change. Currently, I’m grappling with one of the biggest changes my almost three decades of life has seen. I’m, definitely, not the only person dealing with it as this change is caused by a pandemic. Yeah, you guessed right. COVID-19. Sometimes, I feel like I overestimate the impact of this disease on my life in general. However, a couple of times in the past few months, reality has hit me in the face very hard I know the truth of the things I am experiencing due to this viral disease.

One of the aspects of my life which have been affected, probably the most, is my WRITING. Yes, this is not a review of the Michelle Obama film. It’s about the lessons I picked from it and how I’m applying it to my life, especially my writing. A lot of things have influenced my writing – the frequency of it and, maybe even, the quality. I am not the writer I used to be six years ago when I decided to take my talent seriously. I’ve improved greatly and I have slumped in quite a few areas. However, sometimes, just as the participant asked Michelle Obama, I ask myself what must I do to back on track of my normal writing?

“What I have learned is, ‘Get back on what track?’ It’s a whole new track. It’s not going back. It’s not. You, it’s just all different and it’s different forever. So, it’s not getting back on track but it’s creating my next track” – Michelle Obama

That is Michelle Obama’s answer and that’s exactly how I am looking at my life and my writing going forward. Change will keep happening to me. I can’t keep wanting to go back to what life used to be before the change happened. What I can do is move forward, know that it’s all different and it’s different forever and create my next track. This film, particularly, this theme and this minute of it, has injected a sense of freshness to my journey as a writer and it makes me excited about what there is to discover on this new track. I know sometimes you get your paper on Friday and you’re disappointed that my column isn’t there. Well, all of that is changing from today forward. We’re on an onward forward-moving new track now. Watch this space for more.

What is it that you do? Have you lost your mojo somehow? Are you struggling to get back on track? I hope you find this helpful. Until you hear from me again, do not hesitate to mail me your thoughts on this article via [email protected]. Remember, it can only get better and we can only get better.

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