Saturday, 14 April 2018

What Oprah Taught Me

As I sat with my head resting on my Dad I couldn't keep my eyes off the TV screen. The language was different from mine, and I was too young to be able to read the fast words that kept changing at the bottom of the screen. Words that could tell me what the people were talking about. Words that could explain why the man was crying. Without understanding a word said or written, I still couldn't keep my eyes off the screen. I couldn't keep my eyes of this woman, the presenter of the show. Her voice was soothing, caring. I knew whatever was going on it was important. Whatever was going on, this woman cared. I like her! I thought to myself. All I need is a few more years and I can finally understand what is going on. For now, I let her soothing voice take me to the land of dreams.

My parents once told me, that when I was a quite young, I used to fall asleep while they watched The Oprah Winfrey Show. Dad said that for some reason her voice has always calmed me down, so they used to let me sit with them and watch the show. Since I couldn't read the subtitles yet or understand English, they thought it won't hurt me (as long as it wasn't episodes where disturbing images showed up) and since it helped me fall asleep, no harm was done.

I learned how to read  Portuguese before I could understand English, so I was quite happy when I could understand a bit more of what was going on. It was like my mind opened up to the world! But with learning how to read those pesky subtitles it also came restrictions. The show was very often to mature for a 6-year-old, so most of the time I wasn't allowed to watch the show. However, I was a very sneaky little girl so I used to turn on my super small old black and white TV in the room and put it on mute (Don't really need sound for subtitles). That way I could also hear when my parents were on their way to come check on me and I quickly turned off the TV and faked that I was asleep.

Oprah was like an honorary mother in my life, teaching me so many life lessons that have always stuck with me for life. It's not like I aspired to be her, because there is only one version of me and only one version of her (something Oprah taught me). However, I did aspire to be as kind, intelligent and loving as she is (in my own life), and I like to think that I do my best to achieve that.

Basically, this meant that I was the weird kid that watched Oprah and kept getting in trouble when I talked about certain issues from the show at school. Even though I now realise that watching The Oprah Winfrey Show wasn't adequate for a young kid, I have to say that I actually learned a lot from it. Things that probably saved me from me, and things that saved me from the harm of others.

With recent events, the most valuable lesson I have learned from Oprah is that my body belongs to me. We all know that Oprah was molested during her childhood through to her teenage years. She always spoke about it and she did so many more shows about child abuse. Why is this important? Because of Oprah, I was very aware of the early signs that predators show. I was aware of some of their grooming tricks, and that came very handily when I was 11 years old.

When a very distant cousin started showing some predatory and grooming signs to me and some of my even younger girl cousins, I went into surviving and protect mode. I knew I needed to make sure it wasn't just harmless behaviour. I had my confirmation when one of the times that he has asked me to sit on his lap and I did (sit on his legs), and he pushed me all the way to the back, so my bum was on top of his genital area. I felt so uncomfortable that I would end up feeling something I didn't want too, that I just jumped out and run. When he went as far as getting one of my younger cousins to sit on his lap facing him with her legs wrapped around him, that's when I thought enough is enough. My cousins and I got talking, and he apparently once had tried to lure one of the little ones to an empty room. We decided to put measures in place to keep ourselves safe. Yes, we could have gone to adults, but who will believe us? Nothing has actually happened and I knew from a friends experience that the odds weren't on our side. So the best we could do was to keep each other safe.

I haven't seen him in over 15 years, but the rumours of the pervy cousin apparently got spread into the younger generations. If it wasn't for Oprah speaking about it and her numerous shows on sexual abuse and molestation, I'm pretty sure I would never have picked up the signs, and who knows what could have happened to any of us.

This lesson was taken into my teenage years and into adulthood. Knowing that my body belonged to me and no one else. Who hasn't grown up with stupid hormonal boys thinking that they can just run past you and touch your bum or boobs like they have the right to do so? Well, let's just say that violence isn't the best solution, but when you kept reporting it to the teachers and they always came back with 'Boys will be boys' as an excuse, then I had to take matters in my own hands. Hospital trip with broken chin it is. Let's just say that after that no boy ever touched me again without consent.

If I was to write in full all that I have learned from Oprah, I will probably have the basis for a scientific paper in my hands. The life lessons have been endless.

Ms Oprah Winfrey, made me believe that being me was actually worth it. That we are all unique and for that we are all worthy of being in this world. When you grow up thinking all you deserve is the death and misery that life keeps giving you, the thought that Oprah thinks we are all worth it, it really helped me through tough times. When I was at my lowest it was like I heard her voice saying that I'm not alone and to talk with someone. When you share your problem, you also share your pain, and you can finally start healing.

The one thing that I'm so grateful to have learned from all these years of watching Oprah, it's daring to dream. Don't let your circumstances and the belief that you are not worth it to stop you to dream for something better. Without the dare to dream, I would never have moved to England at 21. I wanted something better, something more, and that's why I decided to go and take a risk. What is life without a bit of risk? If I haven't moved to England, I probably would have never discovered who I really am. I would never have met my amazing partner of seven years. I would never have met some of the most awesome people that I have the pleasure to call my friends. I would have never started my blog. I would never have gone into some many adventures.

Daring to dream and taking the risk to follow that dream has brought me some of the best years I have had in my life. There isn't one day I regret leaving the family I very much love behind to go and live my life. Even when things haven't quite gone like I planned, it still has been the best decision ever.

So it's only fair that this world would make London the place where mine and Oprah's paths will eventually cross. On the 13th of March of 2018, my dream to meet Oprah came true when my best friend and I went to A Wrinkle in Time premiere. Being in the same room with her, was magical. I couldn't contain my happy tears. I hold on to every word she spoke. Just as when I was a kid, I couldn't keep my eyes off her, but this time I wasn't looking at her on my TV screen anymore.
Oprah dared me to dream, and the path I took to follow my dreams took me to her.

That's what I call a full circle.

Bio: Ana Duarte is a Film and Book Blogger and aspiring author, currently working freelance on some of your favourite reality TV shows. She studied Film and Moving Image Production at the Norwich University of the Arts. Currently, she is in the very early stages of writing her first book. Originally from Portugal but currently residing in London with her boyfriend, where they are drowning in books, DVDs and Harry Potter Merchandise.

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