In the preface to her bestselling 2018 memoir Becoming, former First Lady of the United States Michelle Obama says she thinks that What do you want to be when you grow up? is one of the most useless questions anyone can ask a child. “As if growing up is finite,” she says. “As if at some point you become something and that’s the end.”

At the age of fifty-four, then, after having left Washington, D.C., where her husband had served two terms as President, Michelle Obama was free to share her life story with the world in her own words, in writing. It’s the story of one woman’s becoming.

As she puts it: “For me, becoming isn’t about arriving somewhere or achieving a certain aim. I see it instead as forward motion, a means of evolving, a way to reach continuously toward a better self.”

In this candid and inspiring memoir (which, by the way, was translated into twenty-four languages and has sold well over 14 million copies worldwide), Michelle Obama takes readers from her childhood in a racially mixed neighborhood on the South Side of Chicago, to her Ivy League East Coast education (Princeton and Harvard), to her marriage to Barack, and their life, with their two little girls, inside the White House over eight momentous years.

At the end of the book, in her summing up, she states, “Becoming requires equal parts patience and rigor. Becoming is never giving up on the idea that there’s more growing to be done.

“… It’s not about being perfect,” she writes. “It’s not about where you get yourself in the end. There’s power in allowing yourself to be known and heard, in owning your unique story, in using your authentic voice. And there’s grace in being willing to know and hear others. This, for me, is how we become.”

I was reminded of Michelle Obama’s memoir this week while talking with a friend here in San Miguel de Allende. She and I were discussing last week’s WOW post (, which surprised me by eliciting a whole lot of feedback, not only in the blog’s Comments section, but also in private e-mails to me and in-person conversations — all of which I appreciated and learned from.

The consensus in all this feedback was that it’s not a matter of “Do” OR “Be.” It’s not either/or. And as my friend rightly pointed out this week, it’s not even a question of Be-ing.

“I think it’s about becoming,” she said.

“Have you read Michelle Obama’s book?” I asked her.

“No, not yet,” she said.

“I have it! I’ll loan it to you. You’ll love it.”

So, agreeing with my friend, and with the help and backing of Michelle Obama, I’ll attempt to clarify my position regarding our “responsibilities” (my word, not Michelle’s) as older women in what Mexicans refer to as “la tercera edad” (literally, “the third age,” the last third of our lifespans):

“Becoming” is a process. It doesn’t end until we do. It means using the unique talents we’ve been given, and doing (there’s that word doing again) whatever good we can in whatever way we can right up to the end. It’s not a matter of striving to live up to others’ expectations of us, but rather fulfilling our own personal destinies, whatever they may be. And, to quote Michelle Obama once more, it means “never giving up on the idea that there’s more growing to be done.”

And I’ll go one step further: To me it means not allowing ourselves to be silenced, sidelined, or stunted by a dominant society’s deep-seated ageism. As Mexicans recognize, la tercera edad is an important stage of life. We older women are fortunate to be living in it.

27 thoughts on “Becoming”

  1. I agree with your whole blog on “becoming”. I especially like Mexico’s treatment of seniors or people in “la tercera edad”. We are lucky to be living here.

  2. Wow, the verbs “silenced, sidelined or stunted” ring memorably. Thanks for the concept and the lyrical expression. You remain an inspiration.

  3. While in San Miguel I worked with children at CILA teaching them art, opera and ballet and encouraging their artistic endeavors in the process. Now in California i was doing the same thing until the Covid Attack. I plan to resume same as soon as possible. A gift isn’t a gift until it is shared.

      1. I do want to continue receiving the WOW Factor and will read the comments as they are posted on it. Blessings.

          1. Thank you. I’m just sorry that we didn’t meet when we were in San Miguel. My husband of 58 years passed away in 2019 and shortly after I had to move back to California to be closer to family.

  4. Wow thanks for the “ silenced, sidelined or stunted” verbs. I agree with
    both your content and the lyrical phrasing of the expression. Thank you!

  5. Dear Bon,

    That’s the wonderful thing about “becoming.” It allows you to always be on the verge of something new. As we age I think we sometimes forget how change keeps us young.


  6. Bonnie what a wonderful piece! I too loved Michele’s book and your comments on it and your one step further is perfect for us living here in Mexico.
    Thanks for sharing your writing talent with us all

  7. Hello Bonnie! I wish I was there as I’d rather have an in-person conversation about this than type. I loved the do-ing vs be-ing conversation of last week. So many of us are do-ers but in the doing, it’s who we are being: curious, learning, giving, communicating, exploring, creating, etc. So I believe they are combined, in a way. And I did read Michelle’s book and loved it. I can hear her voice as I read her words, and I appreciate her authenticity. I believe we continue to grow, to be challenged, and sometimes even to be resigned (when there is nothing we can do about the situation). But most importantly, we continue to meet new people, have new experiences, new conversations, and have new opportunities to learn, laugh, and love. Sending love your way…

    1. Barb dear — I’m so grateful to have your wise words in writing to share with everyone! Thanks so much. Sending love back to you. Can’t wait for your return to SMA. — xx

  8. Part of becoming is learning—about ourselves, about the world around us and about new ‘things.’ Curiosity, openness, awareness. All so important as we move through ‘the third age!’

  9. Enjoyed very. much your reactions to “Becoming.” I love the book too, and thanks for reiterating the ideas about “rigor and patience.” That paradox has always been a tricky one for me!

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