Oprah, this is for you (and my American friends)
Katinka Hesselink, 2007
I practice what's now known as ' The Secret '. And I have to say: yes, it works. Visualization works, but unfortunately it doesn't guarantee happiness. Oprah - there's some things you have to learn about the limitations of humanity. So this is for you and all my American friends, some of whom are still struggling to find their way in life, like I am.
I love you, Oprah Winfrey. I really do. I grew up watching your show and you effectively taught me the rudiments of psychology (for my younger readers: that was before Dr. Phil was on). I love how you tackle important issues and I love the way you give back to the community worldwide. I'm also very glad to see that this year you top the list of rich media-stars, male and female, of all colors. I'm feminist enough to be glad we have you as a role model in our midst. I'm also racially conscious enough to be glad someone who's black came this far.
I'm a former teacher. I taught math and chemistry in middle school, and despite visualizing jobs in that and visualizing quiet classrooms - I sucked at it. So I got fired, found myself a new job, got fired again, etc. I learned a lot as I was teaching. If I were to do it over again, I would probably quit a bit sooner, but I'm not unhappy I tried.
The thing is though, however much I visualized, I could never quite visualize myself a different personality . Believe me, I tried. But somehow I crossed the line between visualisation and dreaming... We all come with limitations. We come with inherent traits, potential, intelligence. Yes, some of that potential can be hidden and some people will blossom at things nobody would have thought they could do. Others, unfortunately, will just fail miserably.
The American Dream is about celebrating the ones that do succeed. There's not too much wrong with that. It helps people persevere against the odds. Unfortunately that is only one side of the social reality in the United States. The other side is that for many people it's just not clear what their dream should be. Some of us dream dreams that don't fit our personal realities. Some of us have talents that just don't combine into doing anything well - so we end up doing stuff just average or less. Some people just don't get the chance to figure out what their talents are and will end up doing stuff for the rest of their lives even though it doesn't fulfill them. That's the way life goes.
Just because someone looks like a supermodel, doesn't mean their best path is to be one. Just because someone dreams of being an athlete, doesn't mean they actually have the talent or the perseverance. Many people will just have to be happy being able to pay the mortgage, not being in debt and having a decent marriage. Many will have to deal with not having any of that. Life is just not spectacular for most people, Oprah, it just isn't. Your life is extraordinary, but that very word shows that it's not the usual life. Not only is your life extraordinary, your work leads you to meet the extraordinary. That's just how it is. That's alright: it's your path - and it shines.
But for most of us life is just too messy, too unclear, and our talents too ill-matched. Balancing everything in us and in our lives isn't easy for most people. No 'secret' in the world can make me a good teacher of teenagers. I therefore had to learn the limitations of 'the secret'. The limitation is that we do have to make sure our dreams fit our reality. Yes, visualization works, but there are other laws of nature we have to contend with.