Becoming, an amateur review

alex-nemo-hanse-ApJ0cB58yYk-unsplashA few weeks ago I noticed a book beaming up at me from underneath my friends T.V. stand. After a very nice request to borrow it, and a promise not leave crumbs in between the pages, Becoming was in my hands and ready to show me what all the rage was about. 

A few days (and crumbs) later, I found out. Michelle Obama’s writing possessed a surprising amount of candidacy. As soon as I started reading Michelle’s story, I began to feel as if I were a close friend getting let in on all the family secrets.  With intimate details of her father’s disability and adolescent insecurities, I immediately connected to her life story and invested in learning more. Her childhood memories made me feel like I was reliving mine, and so every few pages, I may or may not let a few tears slip. Okay it was a lot of tears. I got so sensitive to the point of purposely refraining from reading in public because no one should have to witness an almost-twenty-year-old crying over the former first lady.

“Time, as far as my father was concerned, was a gift you gave to other people.” (Page 34)

Becoming gave me more than just tears. Michelle insightfully analyzed her own development for readers to understand her as a person. In her book, she reflected on the consequences she had faced from her own ambition, and I was able to interpret them as personal life lessons from one of the most prominent people in the world. Also, even as a black woman growing up on the South Side of Chicago, Michelle acknowledged her own privilege of having a caring support group growing up and an invested education. Her struggles with accepting her own success, giving up control and navigating complex family issues reaffirmed to me that it’s perfectly okay to have my own, because even THE Michelle Obama didn’t have a perfect life; an important reminder for me in an age of everyone looking perfect on social media.

“It was painful, but time pushed us all forward.” (Page 90)

Even more, Michelle’s struggles were incredibly earnest and realistic. She faced situations so utterly unfair that Becoming forced me to contemplate the implications of taking “the high road.” She worked harder than anyone knew yet her success was something rarely regarded in politics. The week I was reading Becoming, I had one of those weeks that tested me over and over again. People close to me decided I wasn’t important enough to keep around, and instead of getting angry and yelling, I decided to step up and away, just like the Obamas had managed to do an incredible amount of times (even amazingly so with Trump).

“I knew I was no smarter than any if them. I just had the advantage of an advocate. I thought about this more often now that I was an adult, especially when people applauded me for my achievements, as if there weren’t a strange and cruel randomness to it all.” (Page 176)

And, finally, Michelle just inspired the heck out of me. Although I don’t think I could ever mimic the pace of her insanely busy life, her professional life is a admirable goal. Her recollection of doubts and discoveries she had in her early career once again told me to follow what I love instead of what’s going yield a satisfactory nod from people. I have absolutely no clue how Michelle was able to remember nearly 400 pages worth of personal anecdotes and life events, but her biography feels like a paved road for me to follow. Everything I do, from writing this blog to going to class, is building me for something unpredictably bigger, like her work with nonprofits prepared her to make meaningful change throughout the entire country. It’s exciting to think about where my potential can land me, even though I don’t exactly have my eyes set on the White House.

“Barack and I would sit at dinner, hearing tales from the Sidwell playground or listening to the detail’s of Malia’s research project on endangered animals, feeling as if these were the most important things in the world. Because they were. They deserved to be.” (Page 347)

Thank you for sharing Michelle. As a short, young girl in an increasingly intimidating world, it helps to have a tall woman to look up to. I hope you and Barack are enjoying your post-presidency life, avoiding news channels with carrot-head men and relaxing on a beach somewhere (although seemingly knowing the two of you the beach part is probably unlikely).

“Dominance, even the threat of it, is a form of dehumanization. It’s the ugliest kind of power.” (Page 408)

P.S. I know I’m a few years late on reading Becoming, but Michelle’s wisdom and Trump shade is timeless.

P.P.S. This is my first blog post in a long time on this page because Ive been blogging abroad for my university. If you’d like to catch up on the last few months of my life, the link is below 😉

https://globalgator.wordpress.com/category/beyond-the-swamp/victoria-fall-in-paris-2019/

It’s me, I’m the Girl

Just be prepared for a cheesy “how study abroad changed my life” post in 4 months.

There’s a girl sitting at a small table on the street, in front a Parisian café, sipping from the tiniest cup of espresso you’ve ever seen. She’s reading a book– no, a textbook– and earning judgmental looks from the passing strangers on the street. The French don’t read in cafés, they smoke and talk and eat their €6 croissants. However, she doesn’t seem bothered. She’s an American in Paris, and no one could convince her otherwise.

It’s me, I’m the girl. At least I imagine myself to be that girl in two weeks time.

Earlier this year, I decided to put my life at UF on pause for a semester abroad. I picked Paris, and even though it could never compare to our beautiful swamp, I knew that this European cliché would be the experience that every teen movie idealizes.

I have always wanted to learn French, and after two semesters of language courses at UF,  I was ready to be fully immersed. I also couldn’t help but imagine myself walking fashionably along the Seine and sipping wi–, I mean juice, and watching the sun dip under the Eiffel tower. 

Then, about a month ago, those beautiful thoughts were clouded by realistic fears. What if I couldn’t ask for help in a foreign language? What if I hated my apartment and couldn’t befriend the international students? What if I made a mistake and I’m not ready?

In the midst of applying for my visa and freaking out over my very non-Parisian wardrobe, I had to remind myself that this is what adventure feels like. It’s scary.

Luckily, the only way to get rid of my fears is by facing them. This sounds fromagey (get it, cheesy, but in French) but that day I decided that my main investment in study abroad was going to be growth. By forcing myself outside my comfort zone, I will grow to learn how to adapt to a new culture and new people. 

So, aside from the fears of study abroad, I have now embraced the excitement. I cannot wait to sit in a classroom full of people from all over the world, all with their own languages and cultures. I cannot wait to stuff my belly with gelato and spend an afternoon at the Louvre. I cannot wait to be challenged by foreign classes which will give me perspectives I wouldn’t have experienced at UF.

I know that studying abroad is going to be a priceless investment in my international relationships, my snazzy French accent and my resumé, but most importantly, I know it will be an investment in myself.

Mr. Toastman

Mr. Toastman and I went our separate ways, but his presence will remain forever in my heart. Well, probably not my heart, but definitely on this blog.

You know that one barista that always makes your drink perfectly? Or the really friendly mailman that gets those Amazon Prime packages to you seemingly minutes after you order them? These kinds of people comprise of a relationship that is, quite simply, perfect. Just for a few minutes a day, your lives intersect in a positive manner; you’re happy with their service and they’re happy for some friendly clientele. There’s no room for heartbreak, betrayal, lies, or anything else that sources from complicated friends and romantic relationships.

The thought of this perfect simple relationship came to me after my 10 day affair with the toast man. Well, I guess it wasn’t an affair per say, but it did leave a meaningful impression on my life. You see, me and Mr. Toastman met on a cruise. He was in charge of toasting bread. It’s beyond me why they needed not one, but TWO toast people to toast the bread of fully-functioning adults, but I’m happy they did, because that’s how I met my lover. Okay, he wasn’t my lover but I’m still in the whole mystery novel affair headspace.

Every morning, I would ask Mr. Toastman for precisely one piece of white toast, because I was on a cruise and couldn’t be bothered for whole wheat. I usually don’t eat toast every morning, but this sweet Montenegro gentleman inspired me to change my ways, not for the sake of delicious toast, but for the sake of our two-minute conversation we had at 11 a.m. while the bread was toasting. We talked of life, death, love and courage. JK, it was 2 minutes and there was usually someone else standing in the toast line, so that would’ve been way too intense. But we did discuss weather, breakfast, the day’s port and other smalltalk. Perfectly uncomplicated, simple smalltalk.

You’re maybe wondering why mr. toastman left such on impression on me. To be honest, I don’t really know why either. I don’t know why I made it a point to make it to breakfast every morning (I had to set an alarm before noon, so you know I was dedicated) and why I never betrayed my toastman for toastman #2. Maybe it was valuable to me because it was temporary, unlike most relationships we have nowadays. I wouldn’t go on to follow him on social media or get his number. I would probably never see him again.

On the last day we docked in Montenegro. His grin was wider than all the days before, because on that day he would get off the ship and see his family and friends. He gave me recommendations on where to go that day, and burned my toast one last time. He wasn’t the best toastman out there, but he was the best one I’ve ever had. My relationship with him was better than any relationship I ever had or will have because it remained perfect. No deceit and no complications. Just toast once a day.

Why I’m Staying Off Instagram This Summer

Did everyone’s feeds blow up with pictures of the Colosseum and the Louvre or do I just have an obnoxiously glamorous group of friends? 

So I’m not sure when everyone on Instagram teamed up and decided to go Europe this summer, but some huge secret meeting definitely occurred because from where I’m sitting — at home, on a couch —  it seems like everyone went traveling this year.

This phenomenon could’ve happened for a number of reasons:

1) Everyone got rich. Unlikely, because I’m still getting venmo requests for $3.

2) Plane ticket prices dropped dramatically and people lowered their standards to flying over the ocean in something mildly more comfortable than a clown car.

3) Everyone is getting old and feeling their potentially extravagant, kid-less lives slipping away as they slowly settle into adulthood. A panic to travel set off.

4) Since average people started killing the insta game, a backdrop of your old backyard fence won’t do. No, to compete with today’s grade A Insta models, you better be standing in front of the Trevi fountain at Golden O’clock to make an impression.

5) Still pretty convinced about the secret meeting theory.

There’s nothing wrong with traveling, but social media habits have turned a cultural exploration into a visually pleasing show-off. We all want to have the perfect pictures to represent our falsely perfect lives. I am 100% guilty of this because I went traveling too, and I’m calling myself out on taking pictures every step of the way.

This destructive habit has turned into my obsession. Instead of wandering the narrowing streets of Europe and admiring the three cats sitting in the window, I looked for posing opportunities. Instead of savoring my first legal wine, I was snapchatting it. I am so, so grateful for everything I saw, but I will always prefer to sit around a fire with my friends than be in foreign city with tourists and my beautiful photos for company.

I’m (trying) to stay off Instagram because although I’m happy for my friend’s experiences, I want to be happy for my own summer, and that means not comparing it to French escargot or gondola rides. (Fun fact: Gondoliers won’t sing unless you pay extra and there’s gondola traffic in Venice. Oh and, you’re literally floating through the sewers.) It doesn’t matter if I went raving in Cali or skiing in the alps or sky-diving in Hong-Kong, because at the end of the day, it’s gonna be my hot girl summer, even if it’s from my couch.

P.S. No, a cute Italian boy did not take me for a ride on his vespa 😦

I’m 13, at least the world thinks so

I was a cute baby. The chubby cheeks, tiny little rosy lips and a dot for a nose could entice anyone to take care of the crying pooping monster. Unfortunately, a babyface on a 19 year old has different outcomes.

I look young. Like, my-face-forgot-to-go-through-puberty young. People will literally tell me that I’m not actually 19. Yes, thank you stranger, your delightful comment has made me realize that my entire life has been a lie, and I have in fact only been alive for 13 years. Actually, thats not a bad response for next time.

Even though there are perks to possessing a seemingly innocent face, it would be nice to look like a grown-up. To look like I belong in a club, to look like the smart and awfully wise college student that I am, and to not look like I lost my mom at the grocery store.

Even the Jehovah witnesses at the door ask me if mom is home… no actually this is one of the perks, I just tell them she’s not home. But getting ID’ed at the movies? Definitely not a perk. I didn’t even know they could do that. I blame hollywood for casting 30 year olds as high school kids.

I get told every. single. day. that I look far too young for my age. Having a babyface makes me feel like a kid because that’s how a lot of people perceive me. It’s hard to walk into a room knowing everyone will underestimate you. At the internship I worked at last year, I had to introduce myself as “intern in college,” because the old hotshot investor thought I was someone’s daughter who skipped school for the day.

Whenever people do get to know me, their estimates of my age are a lot more precise, because they don’t just look at a babyface. They measure emotional intelligence and converstion topics, which hopefully go beyond a middle schooler’s knowledge. I know I could rectify the misconception by wearing more makeup or more revealing clothes, but that’s not me, not at 13 years old or 19.

The point is, I don’t want to alter myself to fit people’s idea of 19. I guess I need to be patient and wait for the wrinkles, stop wearing baby pink (even though it looks fantastic on me), and accept that my first impression won’t be accurate for a while. Oh, and every older-looking guy I date will look like a pedophile, not problematic at all.

P.S. I better be one of those hot young looking grandmas.

My Mother the Foreigner

If you can’t understand, listen.

My mother and I look nothing alike, so much so we were all convinced there was some shady adoption business going on. We have opposite personalities but somehow we became best friends after surviving the teenage-daughter vs. mother battlefront.

I love her eccentricity and the fact that she raised me in a foreign country but didn’t let me abandon the child-torturing russian lessons that made me bilingual. So while my sister and I were learning languages both old and new, my mom took English lessons at night. For years, she tried her best to assimilate to an entirely different culture, but it was much harder for her than it was for us. Even now, any communication points to the all-obvious fact that she is a foreigner, which always leads to the judgement that she should’ve “learned English a long time ago.” I’ve watched my mother receive eye-rolls and ignorance throughout my entire childhood. She’s forced the speak louder so that people will even turn an ear, until they determine she’s too intellectually incompetent to have a conversation with. The most heartbreaking part is that they won’t even try to listen. I see them turn away as soon as they can.

We’ve been in Europe for a few weeks now. My mom gets treated like a different person. Here, where they respect the hundreds of cultures from hundreds of tourists, they listen to her. She speaks softer, and I see a side of her that I haven’t been able to for many years. I’ve been feeling proud of the fact that we’re actually from Europe, and I can see my pride being mirrored in the respect of strangers around me. Waiters and drivers have been laughing at her stories and ASKING her questions about her life. Here, she’s a bright sun making people smile.

I hate the fact that when we get home, American strangers will act like being an immigrant is an embarrassment. I’ll have to order for her at restaurants and she’ll quietly sit back, because she knows that when her American sounding daughter speaks, her family isn’t being judged. America has truly given us everything, except the chance to feel pride on behalf of our culture.

Please, if you don’t understand, listen. Watch the charades, re-ask what you don’t hear, and enjoy the tea that my mom will undoubtedly offer you.

We’re all flying idiots

I don’t think I’ve ever had a flight leave on time yet every time I’m flabbergasted that it’s late.

Airports are one of the worst places. The only happiness that occurs there is outside the airport doors, where happy people are happily reuniting. On the other side of those doors, people are stress-waiting in line, using whatever mind control capabilities they’ve acquired over their lifetime to make their flight leave on time or for their water bottle with just over 100 ml to make it through security.

The staff are notoriously the most unhelpful employees in existence. But who can really blame them? I couldn’t genuinely be considerate to the 134th person that incessantly complained about their worst day ever.

AND THE CHAIRS. Tell me, if you were building an airport, a place where people notoriously get stuck for hours, wouldn’t you build-in reclining chairs or something? No, no you’re right it’s expensive, it’s not like people are paying hundreds and hundreds of dollars to fly. Luckily I’m a pretty little person so airplane legroom isn’t a personal concern, but my heart goes out to all of you giraffes with bruised knees.

Also, when did airports enter movie theater pricing territory? Let me tell you, the airport has NO business charging $6 for a water, unless you consider people hauling luggage pleasurable viewing experience. (I say this as I’m standing in a 40 minute line for my $7 Matcha Frappuchino).

The only thing airports are good for is witnessing adults do things that would otherwise seem bizarre. The guy sprinting desperately towards the gate? He hasn’t ran since since 1966. The woman sleeping on the bathroom floor? She’s been at the airport for four days now and they’re naming a parking lot after her.

The question is: Are we flying idiots to dare take on this wicked place? Yes, because that one girl in that one movie met her boyfriend on there. And also, there’s the whole life-changing perspective part. Even though nothing is in your control, you take on the stress and the germs and the crying babies for 9 hours to land exactly halfway to your dream vacation spot, where your connection left hours ago and left you to join sleeping bathroom girl.

Anyway, hopefully my plane leaves on time (it hasn’t). And hopefully I get my drink before it leaves without me (it did).

P.S. I understand the privilege of traveling and I am really grateful for the chance. Sorry for the spoiled brat perspective.