Here’s the funny thing about making a difference. It really, truly, only happens when you aren’t even paying attention.
Now, I have admitted both on Twitter and to my real life friends that I was suddenly obsessed with watching Oprah’s final three shows. Not really because I love Oprah. But because she came from nothing and built an empire. People donate money when she asks without a second thought. People buy and read the books that she recommends en masse, discussing them at coffee shops on rainy Sundays. Oprah makes people talk. Think. Change. And anyone who has that power over millions, in my mind, is worth keeping tabs on.
And I think that a part of us admire Oprah because we want that sort of power in our own lives. The ability to speak our minds, and to not only be heard, but also respected. Now, please, don’t misunderstand me. I truly believe that the words of every other single person in this world are just as important as mine. But it is your words that are what you have to live with day in and day out. And only you have the ability to say what is on your mind. And the fact that you, without a doubt, have that right, the right to both speak loudly enough to be heard and forcefully enough to not be ignored, is complicated. We struggle everyday with making our viewpoint known. And in standing up for ourselves. In asking, mostly likely when we should be DEMANDING, for apologies. In fighting for the flippant comment that was unnecessarily swept under the rug.
My own personal version of Oprah is a girl who lives in Brooklyn. I simply cannot remember life without her. My mom has a picture of when she put us both in a laundry basket with some toys, and, even then, we entertained each other. That’s how long I’ve known her. She has moved from Minneapolis to California to D.C. to Manhattan. She now is settled in Brooklyn, for what seems like the near future. She’s happy. Healthy. Wherever she goes, she finds a job. An apartment. New love. And not just any love. One of those really good ones that is beautifully simplistic in a way that only a truly worthy relationship can be described as. Whatever life hands her, she has an absolutely magical touch. No matter how much I miss her, I always am comforted by the fact that I know she will come out on top. Because, in her life, she knows no different.
But Minneapolis is still her home. And she still visits on holidays, to spend time with people who, any day of the week, I would consider my second family. She had nearly convinced me, too many times to count, to change jobs. To move. To challenge myself more. To hop a flight and not look back. And I have yet to take her up on this. It’s not that I don’t dream about adventure. I crave it. I need it. When it’s not in my life I become bored and predictable.
It’s just that, in a complex way, I have much more here than she does. At least that’s what I tell myself. Maybe it’s not true. For now, at least, it has to be. Because the alternative option I can’t even comprehend.
But I admire her just the same. Everything she has done, I have done the exact opposite. If I didn’t love her so much, it would be easy to hate her.
What struck me was when she told me the same. She had come home for spring break in April, too old and broke to go on a trip, but still in nursing school and finding herself with a week without obligations. We ended up at Ginger Hop, ordering a bottle of wine when only a glass was the plan, and talking about everything under the sun. We are proof that miles are only miles; every time we talk it is like no time has passed.
And she told me something that I honestly think about every day since then. She told me that I was admirable as well. Specifically, after talking about everything basic, taboo, and in the middle, she sighed. And her eyes got wide, and she leaned in. And she said
“I don’t always like what you have to say, but I admire the fact that you say what you mean. I know you’re always giving me the truth. And for that reason alone, you will always be my favorite person to talk to. Your opinion matters to me. More than you will ever know.”
I’m not telling you this because I want you to know how great someone thinks that I am. I’m telling you this because of the shift in perspective that it has given me; how words, something so small and seemingly meaningless, can form you. How words, usually things you don’t think twice about, can feed you with a power you didn’t know you had an appetite for.
And so maybe I want to be her, off gallivanting in various cities, and meeting more amazing people than she knows what to do with. But I love knowing that, to her, I represent home, an honest opinion, and that I am the one person who will tell her exactly what she needs to hear, whether she likes it or not. One who will not lie, one who is happy enough with the present to see no need to embellish, and the one who, at the very least, will tell her that, yes, that dress may be hot in NYC, but this is still the midwest. We’re a little behind here.
So I don’t have the power of Oprah. I never will. And neither will she. But a girl who has literally SEEN IT ALL-my entire life from six months old to today-and is easily the strongest character witness I have for all my good, bad, and downright ugly parts, still deems me her best friend. The one with a truthful opinion that she would trust with the world. And I feel the same. But I never even noticed the existence of this power that I have, in my very own hand, until it was in front of my face on a random Wednesday night.
And so, even before we are making the conscious effort to try to impress our views on others, they are already taking them in. And subtly asking for more. And they may very well already be in admiration of who we are, a person that we ourselves are so quick to dismiss as really doing nothing all that important anyways.