During these boomer years of my life, I have often thought of the success of Oprah Winfrey. I wonder what she had that allowed her to climb the ladder to become the phenomenal business woman and media icon she is today. Umpteen years ago, we both started out on the same path as aspiring journalists. I'm sure we both had drive and determination and, yes, we had to have a self-confidence about our talents and abilities. Although affirmative action opened up many doors in the 70s and early 80s, it wasn't a sure fire guarantee that you would climb the ladder of success once you got your foot in the door.
Unlike Oprah, I wasn't molested as a child and didn't have a baby out of wedlock. I didn't grow up poor with a single mother in the deep south. (Maybe we were poor in Ohio but I never felt it). I wasn't fat either. So how does a young woman with plenty of "perceived" advantages in the Midwest fail to accomplish her goals and dreams nearly 40 years later?
Well, I wouldn't call myself a total failure because I did accomplish many of the things I set out to do and I refused to allow my dark skin color hold me back. But unlike Oprah, I didn't have a true mentor---a white male who recognized my gifts and talents and was willing to mold and shape me into the vision I had of myself. Perhaps it's because I was too radical at an early age. I wasn't going to allow "the man" dictate my road to success, especially since he had no clue of my struggles or ambitions. Plus, I was hell bent on presenting the stories of black people in a favorable light---not as criminals, thugs and poverty-stricken bums.
Unlike Oprah, marriage slowed me down. When I met the man of my dreams, I thought I could have the best of both worlds: a career, husband and family. After all, if Claire Huxtable could do it, why couldn't I? Of course my first marriage turned into a nightmare and I lost some of my drive and determination in the process. On the other hand, When Oprah met Stedman she was content to just have him around when she needed (or wanted) him. And her baby was her dog.
So what did Oprah have that I did not? Oprah, with the help of some good folks along the way, was able to achieve her goals and dreams, along with her undying perseverance, drive and sheer will. I had some of those same characteristics once but no one to help guide me.
If you're a baby boomer woman over the age of 50, it would be easy to live on the would've, could've, should've and to compare yourself to the likes of Oprah. But at this stage of our journey, we must face the hard core reality that time is getting shorter by the minute and it really doesn't make sense to travel down the memory lane of disappointment. While it’s natural to make comparisons, the problem is you end up unhappy, even when you have a good life, marriage, and family. The comparisons make you begin to question what you already have.
No, I didn't achieve the kind of success Oprah did according to the world's standards, but today I am able to look at my strengths as a mature, seasoned woman and see my true value. I will continue to do what I can to make a difference, using the talents and abilities God has blessed me with to help others shine.
It’s actually one of the keys to my success because without it I would have a hard time waking up each day.