Banyan Tribe

From Michelle Obama’s recent book entitled Becoming Michelle Obama:

“…I was trying to tell myself what a no-nonsense female mentor might have said to me directly…I hated being a lawyer. I wasn’t suited to the work. I felt empty doing it, even if I was plenty good at it…In my blinding drive to excel, in my need to do things perfectly, I’d missed the signs and taken the wrong road.” (p. 132)

My family is on holiday together spending hours talking, reminiscing, and laughing together. One evening, while discussing careers and what people we know are doing, I mentioned my surprise at reading the excerpt above. My youngest daughter looked at everyone at the table–people who love and support her through thick and thin and exhaled. “You know,” she began, “that is one of my greatest fears. If I go for engineering, what happens if I find out that I don’t like it?” We discussed this possibility around the table.

“Well, this is your time to ask people who are doing that,” someone piped in.

“If you want Michelle Obama’s mother’s opinion, you worry about finances first and then make yourself happy second!” I added. “Sounds like go for the money first!” Everyone laughed, but I knew the question hung in the air like a dark cloud. I also sensed that my daughter wanted to hear from my husband, the engineer, too.

“If you don’t like it, then after you do it for awhile, you do something else!” he put forward.

I thought of Michelle Obama’s transformation to be more like Barack: she wanted to seek out work more in line with her values, a profession or job that would propel her happily forward with passion and purpose to make a difference in this world in some way, big or small. She set out to talk to as many people as possible, ask questions, and stay in contact with any people she connected with. Ultimately, she would end up making about half of what she was making as an attorney in Chicago, but she’d feel herself coming alive in a very real way for common people.

This, I thought, seemed like a noble goal for all of us. Our conversations in the verdant, tropical paradise of Hawaii have been priceless. Whatever road someone takes, we know they have the option to switch gears, take another path, without judgement when the time calls for it.

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