Oprah Winfrey has become a household name for America. She’s an incredibly versatile public figure, dabbling as a philanthropist, author, actress, television producer, and of course, a talk-show host on the celebrated “The Oprah Winfrey Show.” However, legends aren’t made overnight, and she had to lead a life full of trials and tribulations to come to be as we know her today.
Despite her belonging to a marginalized minority, the lessons derived from Oprah Winfrey’s life are able to appeal to people of every race, colour, creed, gender, and sexuality. The peculiarity of Oprah’s experiences depicts universal truths. In essence, she can be deemed the working man’s symbol for breaking societal barriers—especially of race and gender—to reach one’s full potential.
Oprah Winfrey once said:
“I remember thinking…my life won’t be like this, it will be different and better. And this thought didn’t come from a place of arrogance. It was just a place of knowing that things could be different for me, somehow.”
Some people perceive hope to be naive, but these lines truly depict the mindset of an astonishingly optimistic and hopeful human being.
After all, ‘hope’ is only worth something if it’s grasped at despite the odds being stacked up against you, and not when things are perfectly fine already.
The History Of Oprah Winfrey: The Timeline Of A Lifetime:
To truly understand a human being, you have to treat them like you’d treat any other living thing, and trace them back to their roots. It’s a definite reality that every event of our lives, no matter how small, shapes our character and identity.
A Harsh Beginning:
Oprah Winfrey was born in 1958 on the 29th of January, in Mississippi. The 50s, of course, wasn’t the ideal time to be black in America.
Segregation was still prevalent, and African-American people were the target of extreme racism and bigotry. Most people aren’t born with a silver spoon in their mouth, and her childhood evidently was not filled with luxuries; neither did it appear to promise her a better future.
However, the Civil Rights Movement was in action as well, so things had started to look up for Black America.
Some Heartbreaking And Life-Changing Events:
At the age of 6, she came back with her mother and shifted to Milwaukee. Her mother was not very well-off herself and had to work for people in different households to get her and Oprah enough food and money to survive.
Thus, this left Oprah completely isolated, getting no attention from the person that was supposed to be her prime caregiver in those early defining years.
There have even been rumors that Oprah probably experienced the worst time of her life when she had to wear dresses made up of potato sacks because their family didn’t have the means to buy actual clothes.
This certainly illustrates an incredibly challenging life, in addition to being marginalized because of their family’s identity.
At the tender age of 9, an exceedingly horrible incident occurred in Oprah’s life. She was a victim of gang rape by her cousin, uncle, and his friend.
The unforgivable event threatened her already crumbling life to fall apart. However, she made the decision of finally escaping that god-awful place at the age of 13 and eventually became a teen mother at the age of 14. Unfortunately, her son died in infancy.
Still, being subjected to giving birth due to sexual assault at such a young is something that has the capacity of traumatizing an individual for life. However, Oprah made great efforts to heal and move past it, and was adamant about not letting those awful predators influence her life’s trajectory. This is something that truly stands out when we think of the lessons that her life can teach us.
Her Continued Resilience In The Face Of Sorrow:
Her teenage life was certainly filled with numerous hardships.
In the period of adolescence, when teenagers have their hormones and incidentally their emotions all over the place, she managed to stabilize herself. Winfrey managed to dodge some of the biggest hurdles of her life then, by exercising whatever little control she could muster.
Her perseverance assisted her in never losing her edge even once.
Additionally, due to unfortunate circumstances, her parents separated as well, which was undoubtedly a significant life event for her as it is for every other kid stuck in that situation. She then decided to live with her grandparents, which led to a life that was filled with extreme poverty since there just wasn’t enough to go around for all of them.
Nonetheless, she persevered! Due to the impact of the aforementioned events, she was filled with unbridled passion to take her studies seriously because she knew that was the only way she could carve out a path to a bright future.
Faith And Devotion Turned Her Life Around:
Her seriousness and incessant efforts did end up paying off because she became the most popular and well-liked student at the East Nashville High
School, which was an exceptionally huge achievement given the issue of racial sensitivity at the time.
She remarkably won an endless row of awards in different open mic competitions, speech competitions, and debating events.
It was apparent that she had a knack for public speaking and making her voice heard. She then went on to study communication at Tennessee’s State University.
There, Winfrey became an honors student at her university as well, for which she had only her hard work and devotion to thank for.
Oprah’s Life: A Constant Uphill Battle
Despite so many setbacks hindering her from success, Oprah Winfrey was well aware that the only way to go was forward. And at last, her optimistic tendencies bore fruit. Her life took a turn for the better when she turned 19. She got a job as a co-anchor at the Local Radio Station for the evening news.
Of course, it was only a matter of time until she became the host of “AM Chicago” in 1984. This was a huge break for her career!
What Do We Learn from Oprah Winfrey’s Life?
Oprah Winfrey had that rough patch in life that ultimately all of us do, but Oprah’s happened to be quite a long and drawn-out one. That, too, in her early formative years. It essentially took so many parts of her life right out of her hands, the ones that are universally believed to be the best.
She never got to experience the innocence, naivety, and recklessness that the average teenager undergoes in the name of silly teenage years. Instead, she was forced to face the horrible and absurd realities of the world from the get-go.
One might even ask themselves how she could even fall in love with someone after the way she’d been abused and mistreated. How could she have trusted anyone with her life? Well, she actually could trust someone with her life, and that someone was herself. She was the one who picked herself up and ran off out of that dress made up of potato sacks, far away from the tragic past.
By embodying courage, grace and determination, she became an inspiration for all those women who are forced to hide off from the world because they have either been harassed, divorced, domestically abused, or exploited.
She showed how she rose above her sorrow and didn’t let a series of incidents define her entire existence. Not only was she an inspiration for women, but also for black people subjected to generations of slavery and racism. Her success was a definitive act of resistance against her white counterparts, who deemed people inferior on the basis of the colour of their skin.
There are indeed decisive lessons we can derive from her life’ experiences that can be universally applied, and some them are stated as follows:
You Can’t Know Success Until You’ve Known Failure:
A lot of people perceive failure to be the definitive end to their attempted endeavour but it’s actually a stepping-stone towards their success. Coming from an underprivileged economic background and belonging to a marginalized identity, Oprah knew firsthand how unjust the world could be. However, she turned those “weaknesses” into her strength. Failures and disappointments shouldn’t intimidate you into submission, but should rather breed passion to strive for more.
The hardships we face in life, although unfortunate, build our character and offer us new perspectives that are invaluable.
Every Cloud Has A Silver Lining:
This is an age-old saying but one that has managed to always stay relevant throughout time. Some people perceive it as hyper-positive nonsense that minimizes one’s suffering but Oprah exemplified its value and the essence of its core, which is hope.
The lesson “every cloud has a silver lining” teaches us isn’t that a silver lining is always present or that our suffering was due to some grand scheme, but that we must look for the metaphorical ‘silver lining’ no matter how bad things might get because it’s the only way we can survive and go on.
The Abuse You Face Does Not Define You:
This is undoubtedly a hard one to come to terms with but perhaps the most essential one and inevitably part of a much-needed discourse that Oprah Winfrey sparked.
People who are abused and victimized are often treated like “damaged goods” by people.
The ones who treat them like delicate, unstable and volatile beings may be well-intentioned people who just want to make sure they’re okay but are ultimately being extremely reductive and harmful towards those others’ self-perception. It makes the entirety of their lives revolve around those isolated bad events.
She showed the people subjected to abuse that they weren’t victims but actually survivors, since this is the kind of mindset they need to adopt in order to heal and move on.
You Carve Out Your Own Destiny:
A lot of people subscribe to the “if it’s meant to be, it will” kind of life philosophy. However, you can’t just sit and do nothing while waiting for good things to roll around and change your life.
When you adopt this line of thinking, you become too comfortable in the way life’s trudging along and forget there are ways to change your current situation.
In this way, you’ll never be able to reach your full potential. That is why you need to take your destiny into your own hands. The world is your oyster, my friend!
Rely On Yourself More Than Anybody Else:
This may be a bitter pill to swallow but necessary nonetheless.
It’s alright to rely on your friends and family to get you through tough situations from time to time. It’s healthy, as well! But you can’t make a habit out of it because at the end of the day, you only have yourself.
That isn’t to say that you’re lonely and should in turn act selfish.
It’s simply the fact that you’re the one who you spend the most time with. Hence, no one can understand you better than you understand yourself.
Other people may be temporary in your life but your own self is always a constant. Therefore, you need to work on yourself, be comfortable in your skin, invest in your passions, and strive to become the best version of yourself.
Don’t Forget Your Roots:
Another crucial lesson you can learn from Oprah Winfrey’s life is to never forget the past that shaped you into who you are today.
Of course, you should move onto better things but to erase it completely is to erase a part of your identity.
Winfrey never hesitated from narrating her life story, no matter how depressing, because she didn’t want to portray the unrealistic image of an easy and happy life.
It’s why she started charities to help the less fortunate with the privileged she had attained. It’s important to acknowledge your past along with your flaws and mistakes to truly improve yourself and future life experiences.
In conclusion, Oprah Winfrey has led quite an eventful life, and is an inspiration to all of us through her grace and perseverance in the face of injustice.
In essence, the lessons that you can learn through her life’s experiences are all-encompassing and truly ever-green.