Its seems like such a long time ago, almost a life time from when I was in Chicago. The windy city. There with my family and my soon to be husband I was bright eye’d and bushy tailed. A young girl looking for the world to teach her about life. Teach her about what was coming.
When I was 19 I was very idealistic. If I’m honest, I’m still idealistic but now with a healthy dose of skeptical thrown in. Then I was dreaming about a future that didn’t exist. I was thinking that all I had to do was work hard, choose the right job, get married, buy a house, and live happily ever after.
Sadly, happily ever after wasn’t to be, but the other things happened.
There I was in Chicago in our apartment waiting patiently for everyone to get ready. I’d gotten up really early because I’d been waiting for this morning the whole trip.
This was the morning that I was going to a live taping of the Oprah Winfrey Show.
When other young kids were watching Nickelodeon, and Home and Away, I was taping Oprah so I could watch it when I got home from school. From the age of 14 through to about 24, it was my favourite show on television. It was so unlike everything else on TV. Oprah had this way of engaging me even thought I was a thousand miles away. Every episode was like she was showing me another window into what was possible.
Many of my dearest lesson’s came from the Oprah show. I learnt to deal with ridicule because I enjoyed watching a show that explored the human experience in all of its facets instead of an Australian soap. I learnt that the universe will help you achieve your dreams if you let it. I met Dr Phil and learnt “And how’s that working out for ya.”
I also learned that a young girl with nothing but a dream could change the world.
Oprah was, and will always be, the first ‘famous’ person that I revered. I was brought up in a family where strong, independant and female was synonymous so the strength and independence she show’d was not foreign to me. What I found captivating and something that I wanted to emulate in my own life, was her ability to verbalise her inner dreams and desires for the world. She was strong and gentle at the same time. She was a warrior and vulnerable.
That morning we were heading to the Harpo Studios to see the taping and I was so excited I couldn’t sleep so I had been up and ready for ages by the time we had to leave.
Driving in the cab I looked out at the city that was graced with the amazing Oprah Winfrey. I began to day dream about the studios and what they were like, I mean I’d seen them on TV everyday for 5 years, so they felt familiar. I dreamed about Oprah seeing me in the crowd and picking me out and announcing that I had to come and sit with her. This was an episode about the audience and their stories, well that was my day dream any way.
As we neared the studios the cab driver slowed down and spoke to us in a concerned American accent.
“When you finish up it will be easier to get a cab if you walk into town. That way.” he pointed out the front window of the cab. “DO NOT head that way [pointing out the back window]. Its not safe. The studio is on the border of the good part of Chicago and the bad part. You head that way and you’ll be in for a world of trouble.” He looked at us waiting for acknowledgement.
We nodded, thanked, paid and tipped him, and got out of the cab.
The reality of the world came rushing in at me. The reality of the world that Oprah grew up in as a young african american girl crashed into my mind. I thought about the struggles that she’d publicly shared and wondered about the ones she hadn’t shared.
I looked around a saw a group of african american women laughing and hugging in the line up to get into the studio. They looked like that were on a girls day out. I wondered if they have come before or if this was their first time. I wonder if they love Oprah as much as I do. I started to think that perhaps they have more right to love her than I. A white middle class girl from Canada, living in the lucky country. A girl who’d been brought up with loving and supportive parents. A girl that knew she had every opportunity available to her because of this privileged up bringing.
Then I stopped myself. I looked at the women laughing together and saw that they looked no different than what my friends and I look like when we’re together.
I looked around at the other people in the audience line up, the majority women, and saw the rainbow of humanity. All the shapes, sizes, races, religions, and backgrounds all waiting in line to see the woman who’d touched all of us in the same, yet different ways. She brought us all together as equals so I knew I could love her as much as the others in the line up.
The show was great, the topic sadly not about the audience members and their stories so I didn’t get pick from the crowd. It wasn’t a “You have a car, you have a car and YOU have a car!!!” kind of show. It was just an everyday Oprah show and I enjoyed every moment. From the guest telling us how to get out of a car if it was underwater, to the person who hushed us and then made us roar and cheer with placards, to the moments in the ‘commercial breaks’ when Oprah would joke around while her make up artist touched up her already polished look.
Even though the studio was about a 10th of the size that I’d thought it would be. Oprah was larger than life.
Then came the moment that I will cherish forever. After every show, Oprah would wait by the exit door and personally thank each and every person for coming to her show.
As my turn was nearing I started to get overwhelmed with the thought of meeting my idol. Touching her to see if she was real.
I stepped up, looked in her eyes as she grabbed my hand to shake it.
“Thank you for coming” she said warmly and smiled at me.
“Thank you.” Was the only thing I could utter. My voice caught in my smile and I couldn’t say anything else. I walked away and looked back to see her shaking hands, and thanking the people behind me. All of them looking at her with the same wonder as I.
When she took my hand I was overwhelmed with the reality that she was, human. A person. With warm hands and a gracious smile.
When I had said “thank you”, what I actually meant was “thank you for the challenges and struggle you faced. Thank you for being brave. Thank you for your strength, your humour and your grace. Thank you for laying the pathway for me to follow. Thank you for lighting up a world that I didn’t know existed. Thank you for being a role model for women every where. Thank you for letting me know that women could be leaders, they could be business owners, they could be titans, and they still could be feminine. Thank you for creating all of this, so I could be here to learn the lessons that I will cherish always.”
I couldn’t say it. But my heart felt it.
Thank you Oprah, thank you.
Michelle Holland is a creativepreneur, author, speaker and coach who works with creative people who have an idea burning in their mind and want to start living creatively, and perhaps even start a business in the creative arts. Michelle has put together a resource for creative people to use to help them live more creatively. Feel free to download this resource to use here: https://michelletholland.com/creativefuturegiftLet's stay in touch