What Oprah told me to do would be forever burned in my mind, and melded on my heart.
JUST A SMALL TOWN GIRL
I can hear that Journey song ringing in my mind now. At the age of 14, I already felt a hole in my heart. Very motivated to escape the boring little town I was drowning in, I searched and scratched for whatever opportunity I’d come across. Or whatever I could make. I didn’t like where I lived, didn’t know about the opportunities all around me. I hated being a kid. Always hated it. Couldn’t wait till I could drive a car away from this small country apartment and reach the skylines of some epic major city.
I’d begun to pursue my art in any way I could. My parent’s didn’t tell me to do the things that I did. I just did them. They were encouraging and supportive, even going as far as finding magazines and books on the subject. My grandmother would even compile television recordings of Bob Ross episodes for me to watch when I came to visit. But I was driven and determined, even if no one was there to support me.
One of my acts of pursuit was in the form of a letter. I had no idea whether it’d get to her, or whether I’d even manage to get a reply. A busy woman and a famous one.
What would she care about what I search for?
FOLLOW YOUR HEART
But I’d written Oprah Winfrey about my art, sending her a packet of samples from my various work. I’d already been taking the advice of Walt Disney Animation studios, who’d written me back 7 years earlier, sending me a packet of all the necessary steps I should take from high school and on. So I had already begun building a portfolio of sorts. Comic sketches, paintings, elaborate character designs and fan art. I’d asked Oprah if she would look at them and tell me what she thought. I was a fan of her, what she was about and knew that she was a powerful woman. I just wanted her advice. Maybe even a little leads.
When you’re a kid, you really have no tact or fear. I simply asked her if she’d help me.
Within a few weeks, I’d found a letter written out to me from Harpo studios, sitting in the mailbox. My heart raced as I ripped apart the envelope and pulled out the thick, folded paper. She really wrote back. Truly wrote back!
Her letter was of appreciation and encouragement. Oprah thought my work was great for my age, and shared with me her personal story as a child, of her hopes and dreams and of the struggles she experienced.
Oprah told me to follow my dreams fiercely, to follow my heart and I could make it happen. I had talent and the passion. It was a matter of execution now. Follow your dreams, and use the gifts God gave you.
I held onto that letter with an iron grip in the following years. Every once in a while, I’d take it out of my keepsake box and read it.
Who has encouraged you to pursue your dreams?