Lessons Learned From Michelle Obama’s ‘Light’

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It can be tough, but it’s important to “get yourself out of other people’s mirrors,” writes glorious former First Lady Michelle Obama. From someone who has been criticized about her look, style and mannerisms, it’s hard to believe anyone wouldn’t look at her and see a role model.

“I’ve learned it’s okay to recognize that self-worth comes wrapped in vulnerability, and that what we share as humans on this earth is the impulse to strive for better, always and no matter what,” she writes in her book’s introduction.

In the past I was reluctant to leave my mom and travel. Unfortunately, I lost my mom to cancer last year, my retired service dog and a grandparent all in a period of six months. 

When it came time to travel again, I knew my mom would approve. Mom would often say, “Enjoy the sun while it’s day because tomorrow ain’t promised no one.” Given I had a mild heart attack a week after COVID, I knew all too well what she meant. 

Most people didn’t know or care to know what was going on behind the scenes with me and my family while my mom was sick. How many nights I lost sleep or missed work commitments to care for loved ones. But I grew to appreciate myself through grief and became more lenient with fulfilling my own needs. 

Work obligations were important — but making time to lift myself out of a period of emotional saturation was what was needed.

While navigating my grief, I realized that I was doing myself no favors by expecting perfection. I was doing the best that I could. I needed to appreciate myself and my strength.

As South African-born Trevor Noah bid an emotional farewell to “The Daily Show” – which he’s hosted since 2015 – he included an emotional sendoff, giving “a special shout-out to Black women.” This further proves that the global influence of Black women is something that should no longer be left out of history books and conversations. 

“I’ve often been credited with having these grand ideas,” Noah said. “People say, ‘Oh Trevor, you’re so smart.’ I’m like, ‘Who do you think teaches me? Who do you think shaped me, nourished me and formed me?’ From my mom, my grand[mom], my aunt, all these Black women in my life, but in America as well.”

He added that “People who want to learn about America should ‘talk to Black women because, unlike everybody else, Black women can’t afford to f— around and find out.’”

Noah then listed a host of Black, female writers and professors, such as Roxane Gay and Tressie McMillan Cottom, as well as activists Zoé Samudzi and Tarana Burke. He called them “brilliant” and thanked them for educating him.

As Black women, we’re expected to work twice as hard to compete with our white, male associates. We’re climbing mountains, nurturing the next generation and coming to terms with our own power in society.

While this has been one of the most challenging years of my lifetime. I lost my last parent. I look around and wonder…who is left? Slowly but surely, I replayed Michelle Obama’s and Trevor Noah’s words and thought: It’s time to stop seeing myself through the lens of other people’s mirrors and appreciate myself. 

Antionette Kerr is a history lover, lake enthusiast and freelance writer who will always call Lexington home.

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