This is my first of many stories that I will publish about my time aboard Oprah’s Girls’ Getaway Cruise on Holland America Line. I am an O Mag Insider, so this sponsored post has been brought to you by O, Oprah Winfrey Magazine.
Let it be known that months later I am still at a loss for words. I have written and re-written this piece about 12 times since I disembarked Holland America’s Nieuw Statendam. I mean, how do you appropriately put into words what it is like to meet a legend? A true leader? To be in the presence of greatness? I’ve come to accept, you can’t, but here’s my best…
“All I know is, the air changed.”
This is my go to, the canned response I give when friends and readers ask if I have ever met Ms. Winfrey right after I shoot them the look. You know which look I’m talking about. Then it is usually followed by something enthusiastic like, “Yes, you bet I have!” But not before I detonate some explosive firework prose because if you don’t think this will go down as one of the best moments of my entire life, then you’re just plain silly.
Now it is time to finally peel back the velvet curtain because the bell has rung, and class is in session. So gather round you jetsetters because we’re about to go deep into an area of my life I hold very near, dear, and very sacred. While I want to scream it from every mountaintop like one of the Von Trapps, I also want to hold it all inside and not utter a peep. Keep in safe, keep it sealed inside a special vault for only a few to hear.
Oprah’s Girls’ Getaway Cruise
See, I can never properly anticipate when these type of monumental moments are going to happen. I can surely hope + pray for them, but rarely do I ever get the vibe right. Let’s just say comically, that my inner-ESP GPS is totally OFF. To best describe it, I become what resembles the love child of Tina Fey and Amy Pohler.
But, what I do know is this time was different. Very different. Going into this I was completely numb. I honestly didn’t know what to expect, so I had zero expectations and I’m still weak in the knees just thinking about it. How does one go about meeting Oprah with no expectations or feelings? I’m still not sure, but that is what happened. I was just OK with everything which can only be explained as a total zen moment.
The Path Made Clear
What I did know unequivocally, was this was 100% without a doubt my path. I didn’t need GPS to tell me this, I knew it in my heart, and more importantly, my soul. In retrospect, thinking back, I feel bold admitting this, but I am pretty sure this is something my nine-year-old self knew on some level. I can clearly see that little girl at her grandmother’s coffee table, staring at this woman on TV, and just connecting. I immediately knew her, and she knew me.
Did This Really Happen? I met Oprah?
OMG, so fast forward and it totally happened. I met Oprah Winfrey. THE Oprah Winfrey. Like really met her and now I have to actually remind myself to exhale. My life is changed.
So how exactly has my life changed since meeting Ms. Winfrey? Whichever way you dice it, my life has changed in every way imaginable and I still can hardly believe it happened. I will even go as far as saying that it will forever be ranked among milestones such as “getting married,” and “giving birth.” And that’s not exaggerating. Because, guys, did are you reading this correctly? Are you hearing me loud and clear? Let me break this down complete with hand motions: I. MET. OPRAH.
Then what happened?
“OK, we get it was life-changing, then what happened?”
Now when I say, “Oprah Winfrey,” I’m conditioned like Pavlov’s pup. Talk about becoming emotional when I say her name, my eyes start to water and I get a lump in my throat. What can I say? It’s very emotional for me as it apparently is for her. But before I go on any further, it is probably worth mentioning that this entire event was my total and complete, 100%, “Stand By Me” moment.
What do I mean you ask? You know the scene I’m talking about, remember??? When good-ol’ Gordo spots the deer at sunrise and decides to keep it to himself out of fear it will lessen the significance of the moment? That scene! Deep, I know. But’s that’s totally been me. I wanted to hold these memories hostage. Keep all these words safe and secure out of fear that speaking the details aloud will somehow suck any and all emotion out my moment. My memory. That would stink. Big time. Could you imagine? Ugh. But anyway…enough of me being stingy. I’ll suppose I’ll share.
Somewhere back on topic…
I really thought I was whole, but then The Hollywood Reporter article just came out, and I realized that I’m still processing the fact that Oprah held open her arms to me. I’ve waited my entire life for this. Actually, 11,838 days. How do I know this? Because I remember seeing her very first episode after school on ABC, when The Oprah Winfrey showed premiered on syndication.
Yup, September 8th, 1986 was the first time I was introduced to Ms. Winfrey on ABC afterschool. How do I remember this? Because as a young child I was bitter that I’d have to watch a talk show instead of cartoons. I already had way too much Luke and Laura of General Hospital to deal with. Oprah was cutting into my TV time, and thank goodness she did.
But isn’t it really funny how I distinctly remember that? And that is why I know I am on the right path.
A Wrinkle In Time
So as I was about to turn the corner, I felt a flutter of what must have been 1,000 butterflies the size of a pterodactyl. I tried with all my might to be present so that I would never wake up from this dream. However, present or not, our meeting is a total blur.
As I walked into her open arms and all I can say is, I felt as though she was adopting me. I mean it. Her arm around my shoulder felt like home. I apologize for getting all sorts of deep on this usually light and airy blog, but I wasn’t just having a moment, I was feeling a whole lifetime of lessons embrace me. I just remember thinking over and over, “How is this even happening? You’re Oprah Winfrey!”
No doubt I am ready to rewrite the Judy Blume classic, “Dear Oprah…It’s Me, Nicole…” All of these questions flashed through my head, and when I looked into her eyes, time froze and in that instance, I wanted to go forward and be a better person. I wanted to leave all my heartache and insecurities somewhere in the blue Caribbean sea and become the change I wanted to see in the world. I wanted to lift everyone I knew up and carry those I didn’t.
Dreams Come True
Finally, at 5:39 am on a random Thursday in May, I feel ready. Ready to let it all out into the great wide open. I held on to this moment long enough. I’ve sucked out all the “me-ness” nectar I could, and now I’m ready to release and share the love.
However, I think it is also important to note that I did not: scream, cry, faint, jump up and down, or babble. Huge props to me! Ummm…this is big, y’all. I couldn’t even mutter a faint, “Yay!” I was mute. Probably a trait unrecognizable to many when describing me. Again, “How is this my life?”
And the Legacy Continues…
Not only did I get to meet Ms. Winfrey, but I lived a moment that would one day become a part of HER legacy. Surreal, right? I was living a part of Oprah’s legacy. Not many can say they’ve been a part of that, and I’m super proud and extremely honored to wear that badge.
And we would be a part of TWO monumental events. See, the photo of her and I was taken during a private cocktail reception in the Crows Nest right before the ship’s christening where minutes later, Oprah would accept a humanitarian award, be recognized for her life-changing Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls, and take part in the ship’s dedication and christening where she would officially become the ship’s godmother.
Guys, now I totally want to be a godmother of a ship…seriously.
In Conclusion…We All Need Oprah
All I keep imagining, is years from now, being surrounded by a bazillion grandkids, and telling them how I once met one of the most influential and important philosophers of all time, Oprah Winfrey. And I just didn’t meet her, but I was an extension of something she created as one of the O Mag Insiders. OK, my eyes feel like complete waterfalls now. Just call me, “Niagara Falls.”
Becoming an O Mag Insider (brand ambassador for O, The Oprah Winfrey Magazine,) has been nothing short of life changing. It is important to point out, this isn’t an ordinary brand ambassadorship comprised of only influencers. This is the greatest team I have ever been a part of, and our leader, Cara Lonergan is a trailblazer unlike any I have ever seen. It would take many lifetimes to tell her exactly what she means to me, to us, and how grateful I am for the last 18 months. If you only knew the inner workings and people of this group, you would be changed as well.
As for my fellow ambassadors, I had the distinct pleasure of meeting Ms. Winfrey surrounded by friends: Amber Mamian of Global Munchkins, Tabitha Blue of Fresh Mommy Blog, Jenn Powell of Everafter In The Woods, Annita Stoke Thomas of Travel Bags with Annita, and Shelley Webb of The Social Webb. Together, I and these five incredible forces of nature, are now sisters who experienced something amazing that bonded us and we will surely never forget.
And finally, I’ve never done this before, but I would like to take a moment and dedicate this post to my daughter, Kiddo, Coco, the OG Jet Set Kid. As I watch her grow each and every day, I am blown away by her kindness, and keen direction on where her path is leading her. I was absolutely thrilled beyond everything imaginable when I found out that I was going to meet Ms. Winfrey, but Coco? Man, let me tell you, she was the proudest daughter you have ever seen. See, she heeds Oprah’s wisdom and does this thing when she’s having a hard time with someone, instead of name calling or harboring anger, she just shakes her head and says, “S/he needs Oprah…” Yes, Coco, we all need Oprah.
Next time on The Jet Set Family: What I Learned Aboard Oprah’s Girls’ Getaway