I wonder what the world would look like divided into those who have imagined being a guest on Oprah and those who haven’t.
I have definitely imagined this. Sometimes I imagined it like non-singers imagine winning a Grammy, i.e., you’re basically a different person in the fantasy. Sometimes I imagined it like I’ve imagined writing beneath a shelf of books that all have my name on the spine. I.e., it could happen.
When she announced this would be her last season, I saw jokes online about the death of numerous author fantasies. After all, the Oprah seal of approval – whether her book club, her favorite things, or simply a nod that you exist – was proven to make a huge difference in the success of a thing. And I loved these jokes, because I related to them. Since I believe that everyone has a story worth listening to, it didn’t stretch my imagination very far to wonder if someday I’d get to tell mine on Oprah. Many, many, many people deserved a spot on that couch that never got it. One thing I loved about Oprah is that she knew this, she tried to tell us this. You matter, she told us. You have a voice. You have a story. And you matter.
Now that her show has officially closed, I don’t care at all that I was never on it. I just feel grateful I was never on it for something horrible. For every one show with pretty celebrities who told us how happy they were and that they were in “such a good place” in their lives, Oprah probably had ten shows with sadness. Sometimes the sadness had been overcome, but it was there just the same. Sometimes the sadness had ruined a person. Often it was too recent to tell.
When we wish for things, I wonder if we think it all the way through. Maybe that’s why not all wishes come true. It’s probably tender mercy that prevents them. Because to be on Oprah because you are Julia Roberts or the woman who survived poverty and abuse to become a learned professor or the person who wrote a book that’s changing lives – that would be something. But to have been on Oprah because you drank too much as a stay-at-home-mom or because you lied or abused or showed hate – that could be hard to rise above.
We’re lucky, those of us who get to face our humanity in private. It’s not on anybody’s DVR. It won’t make it to the 25th anniversary video. It’s a fuzzy memory, softened by time. And so, the fantasy of future greatness lives on.
Tell the truth. Did you ever imagine it? And if so, what did you say?! Consider this the yellow couch, my friend. This stage is yours.