The Oprah Winfrey Show started in September 1986, the year I was born. When I say I grew up with her show, it’s true. After 25 years of being on the air, Oprah aired her last show this Wednesday, marking the end of a television era.
Leading up to the last show, I knew I was going to be emotional. So many Oprah shows have profoundly affected my life. Like millions of people around the world, I feel like I know her and that when she speaks to the camera, she’s speaking only to me. What I didn’t anticipate was how powerful Oprah’s final show was. There were no guests, no big surprises or reveals, Oprah just talked to the audience, expressing her gratitude and things she’s learned over the years. There were simple messages like “find you calling”, “be responsible for your life”, “the energy you give out comes back to you”, “you are worthy because you were born” (which is so incredibly powerful). What touched me so much about that last episode was that what she was saying was what I needed to hear that day, and so many people take strength from messages like that. The Oprah Show has taught me so much about the self and self motivation, and listening to her speak these words on her final show made me wonder who’s going to fill this void? Who is going to speak like this on TV now to give encouragement to people all over the world? There will never be another Oprah. Never. And I feel so lucky to have been able to learn so much from her show.
I’ve been thinking about my favorite Oprah shows and moments. There are so many, but the first one that comes to mind is in 2008 when Oprah picked Eckhart Tolle’s “A New Earth” as her book club pick. Every week she aired a web show where she and Tolle discussed each chapter of the book, taking questions from audience members. I got the book, and after I finished each chapter, I would watch the classes on my iPod in my bed, and the way I saw the world changed. The way I saw myself changed. It was so powerful.
I loved all of the shows Oprah did about Africa. In 2002 she gave hundreds of South African children Christmas gifts. I was sixteen years old and it was startling to see how excited the children were just to get something as simple as shoes. I remember watching the show about the book “The Secret” and bursting in to tears because it was a message that I needed to hear.
Recently, the show with 200 men who were molested as children, was groundbreaking. It was an incredible hour of television to listen to some of the horrible things these men had experienced. The book club was also influential, especially working in a bookstore. Whenever customers would come up to me looking for a title and say, “It was on Oprah yesterday…” I’d know which one they were talking about.
I learned a lot about life, heard stories from people I’ll never meet and I learned about myself. There’s so much I can say about how incredible Oprah’s story is, to get from where she came from to the billionaire she is today, but all I’m going to say is that she inspires me. I’m going to miss watching and discussing her show with my family, talking about Oprah’s ever-changing outfits and hairstyles and giggling as she tried to sing along with whatever musical act was performing. It probably won’t hit me that she’s gone until September, when there won’t be a big Oprah season premiere to watch.
Oprah seemed ready to go, happy that she did her twenty-five years and open to new chapters in her life. I’m sure her finale is not the last time we will see her on TV, and there’s always Season 25 to watch.
Thanks, Oprah for the years and the lessons. I will take them with me forever.