SOUTH SHORE — In a new essay, first lady Michelle Obama recalls her childhood in Chicago as somewhat stressful as she strove to excel in school and fit in socially.
Obama, then known as Michelle Robinson, attended Bryn Mawr School, now Bouchet Math and Science Academy at 7355 S. Jeffery Blvd. She graduated from Whitney Young Magnet High School and attended Princeton University and later Harvard Law School.
People magazine asked Obama what "words of wisdom" she would share with the school-age version of herself. Her top piece of advice: "Stop being so afraid!"
"That's really what strikes me when I look back — the sheer amount of time I spent tangled up in fears and doubts that were entirely of my own creation," Obama says.
Senior Editor Andrew Herrmann says Mrs. Obama has opened up more recently about growing up on Chicago's South Side:
The first lady said that as a kid, "I was afraid of not knowing the answer in class and looking stupid, or worried about what some boy thought of me, or wondering whether the other girls liked my clothes or my hair." She also recalled "angsting about some offhand comment someone made to me in the lunchroom."
"I would love to go back in time and tell my younger self, 'Michelle, these middle and high school years are just a tiny blip in your life, and all the slights and embarrassments and heartaches, all those times you got that one question wrong on that test — none of that is important in the scheme of things."
Obama has, in the past, recalled fondly her South Shore childhood celebrating events with her extended family. In her book "American Grown: The Story of the White House Kitchen and Gardens Across America," however, she laments that her old neighborhood "has changed a great deal since I was young."
Neighborhood violence has made many children housebound, kept inside by fearful but well-meaning parents, meaning kids are missing out on the memorable experiences she had such as hanging out at Rainbow Beach, she said in the book.
She has spoken critically of some of her experiences at Whitney Young, explaining in a speech in November of 2013 that some unidentified teachers there told her she "was setting my sights too high."
"They told me I was never going to get into a school like Princeton. I still hear that doubt ringing in my head," she told students at a Washington high school.
While describing Young overall as "a great school," Obama said she "used that negativity to fuel me, to keep me going."
Obama, the daughter of two working-class parents, graduated in 1981 from Whitney Young, 211 S. Laflin St.
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