'It doesn't matter who you are, where you come from. The ability to triumph begins with you. Always.' —Oprah Winfrey
A couple of weeks ago, I started on a journey to self-discovery. It began with the realization that my everyday 9-to-5 wasn't affording me the opportunity to reach out to the people whose lives I work so hard to improve every day. I had the feeling of being up in a tower pushing buttons that affect lives, but never seeing those who are touched, never hearing from them until I was responsible for assessing their wrongdoing in some fashion. I didn't know what was missing—just that something definitely wasn't satisfactory.
I began to evaluate my duties as a training coordinator in the health-care industry, and I wondered why, after many years, I suddenly began to notice a heaviness I'd been ignoring. As thankful as I am for my job, the opportunity I long for is to get in the clinches with people's lives outside of my office. That's where I need to be.
My mother taught me to take great pride in who I am regardless of what I do, whom I marry or what my children accomplish. The pride she embedded in me was to celebrate just being me, just being born. My father, however, took the pride that I'd learned from my mother and showed me how to use it to empower others in their life journeys. I've never second-guessed the notion that my parents expected great things from me. The problem was that I didn't know how I was supposed to make it happen. I didn't understand how to be great.
I struggled with this for years. I didn't realize that I had already begun to touch lives. Through friendships and other associations, I was leading people and didn't know it. It didn't take any organization or any major focus, I simply embraced those who embraced me, and I spoke from my heart, sharing my inner thoughts, my imperfections, my desires and ambitions. All the while, I encouraged others to do the same. This didn't seem like a special walk in greatness because these people were my friends, my family.
Then I met my husband, and without knowing it, he has taught me the final piece to this puzzle that I've been working on since my pre-teen years. He taught me that my life is the lesson. He helped me see that with a degree or without it, with a "good job" or without it, with him or without him, I can bring forth power in those who need it. I don't have to seek it. I don't have to follow the road of those who are successful. I have to find my own success.
The reason I haven't been able to measure the success I've already accomplished is because I didn't recognize its greatness. Greatness is what we are all born for; we just have to figure out what our stamp will be.
As much emphasis as my parents put on preparing me for greatness, I thought I was supposed to be the next Oprah Winfrey. I felt a little let down when I hit 35 and was nowhere close to Oprah's vicinity. I have to laugh at that now. Oprah's greatness is her own. My greatness is my own, and today, I own it.
It doesn't matter whether you go to work every day in a nursing home to empty bedpans, or you wear three-piece suits and stand in front of a judge. It doesn't matter if you are the mother of three with no husband, or you are longing for a relationship and the right person hasn't appeared. It doesn't matter if you sign the letter you created, or you hand it off to someone else to take the credit. It doesn't matter how many curves the road has before you, how long it took to get here or where you started. Your greatness starts with you. No one else can have it; it was created specifically for you. Its existence was birthed with your first breath.
If you don't tap into your greatness and make it your reality, it will wither and die—or transfer to another person who has an open heart and feet ready to move. Don't look for someone else to validate your purpose or tell you what it is. You must reach into yourself, and find that purpose on your own. Besides, how would anyone else know what makes your heart beat faster and your spirit smile? It's impossible. Only you can know.
I don't know where this journey will lead me, but I know that I am further along today than I was yesterday, and tomorrow will take me further still. Whether I'm sitting in this tower or not, it is my charge to reach those who make my spirit smile. I suggest that you, too, find the smile within. It's been there all this time, and it waits on you to allow it to shine through. Join me in receiving and owning greatness—your greatness and my greatness.
Funmi Franklin, aka Queen, is a word lover and poet. She's a reality show fanatic and is awaiting an opportunity to star in her own show to be titled, "The Queen & I".