Starting Your Dreams Later In Life and Embracing the Detour

Jenee Darden speaking at Creative Mornings I know it's been a while since I've posted anything but that's because of my job. I'm working as a reporter covering Oakland and I host an arts segment on the radio where I get to interview amazing artists from around the Bay Area. Plus I'm publicizing my book  and building my speaking career!  You know what's funny? I thought this would all happen by the time I was 27-30.  Nope. That wasn't God's plan for me. I'm finally beginning to do the things I've wanted to do and I'm almost 40 years old. Some people reading this who are 40 will say 40 is still young. But some younger people reading may think 40 is nearly ancient. But I'm writing this post for those who like me, thought their career and personal dreams would come true much early in life. I'm here to tell you not to give up.  You know, death inspires life. A number of my relatives and friends have passed away, ranging in

Pinch Me, I Saw Oprah!
A Review of 'Oprah’s The Life You Want Weekend'

I still can’t believe I saw Oprah Winfrey on stage. For a long time, I wished I could go to her talk show. But I’m glad I was blessed to see her at this event instead because it was life changing.

I recently wrote about feeling like I lost my self-power. Well, Oprah's The Life You Want Weekend got me charged up! You can read about how in my Huffington Post article.

The Life You Want Weekend is a two-day unforgettable experience where you listen to top-notch speakers who encourage you to pursue your dreams. I was surprised how much the weekend also incorporated spirituality, which I liked.  The speakers lineup featured: Dr. Deepak Chopra, Elizabeth Gilbert, Pastor Rob Bell and Iyanla Vanzant.

Oprah made her last tour stop in San Jose, Calif.  It was worth the 45-minute drive each day.  Below is a photo journey of my weekend.

Oprah graces the stage Friday night.
Photo courtesy of Harper Studios Inc./ George Burns

Oprah looked regal in this gorgeous orange dress. It was a perfect color for the fall season. She kicked off the weekend telling her story of growing up a poor black girl from rural Mississippi to becoming the queen of media. I knew much of her story already. What did surprise me was that her parents were never married and they were only intimate once. Oprah said she knew, from that story, she was destined to be here.

My favorite quotes from Oprah that night were:
“Your life is being shaped by your beliefs,” she said. “You become what you believe.”
“When things are not in alignment with your spirit, life tries to move you in a new direction.”
 “Whatever it is you’ve come to do, you’re not supposed to keep it to yourself.”
“Take your glory and run!”

DJ Princess Cut kept the party going in O Town.
Photo by Jenee Darden

I had no idea that The Life You Want Weekend was a party. There was music pumping inside and outside of the arena. And when I say music I mean everything from Chaka Khan to Katy Perry to Naughty By Nature. I got my dance on. Outside of the arena was this pop-up town/grown woman carnival called O Town. There was one on each city stop. I loved O Town. There was music, makeovers, journal making, etc. Plus OWN stars and other inspirational speakers took the stage. I spent much of the first day in O Town, because I wanted to focus on the speakers for day two.

OWN stars and staff doing the wobble. Look at Iyanla Vanzant
on the right side working it out! The guy behind her is Flex. 

DJ Princess Cut's dress is FIRE! And so are her
spinning skills. I was happy to see women DJs.

Here's a selfie with me and O Magazine's Creative Director
Adam Glassman. He said I was stylish! This is makes
sure Oprah looks fly on the cover and he complimented
my style. I asked him what are some must-haves for fall.
He told me chunky-heel ankle boots and a motorcycle-style
 leather jacket. He did the wobble as well. 

Cover Girl gave makeovers at O Town. I love getting my makeup done.
Shout out to Meredith for hooking me up. 

Love my look! Thanks Meredith and Cover Girl. 

Models posing for Tracy Reese Washable
Fashion Collection.
Photo by Jenee Darden

I love this idea! Fans got to be Cover Girls with
Oprah. One day I'll have bylines and my book
reviewed in O magazine. One day.

Day two was all about the speakers. Here are photos along with favorite quotes.

Pastor Rob Bell and Oprah
Photo courtesy of Harper Studios Inc./ George Burns
Pastor Rob Bell uses a lot of humor in his delivery. One minute you're laughing and before you know it, he's dropping some spiritual knowledge right into your heart.  His theme was that everything is spiritual. He said: 

"The first word about you is that for some reason the Universe, God, chose to give you life. "
"The life you want begins by embracing the life you already have. And the life you already have is miraculous and matters--all of it." 

Elizabeth Gilbert
Photo courtesy of Harper Studios Inc./ George Burns

Eat, Pray, Love author Elizabeth Gilbert surprisingly resonated with me most. The reason I was surprised is because I haven't followed her much since her smash memoir, but I will be now. She spoke about going on quests (big and small) to find and live our purpose.  She said:

"Don't you dare give up on your question about the world and your place in it." 
“Are we still planning to become the heroes of our own stories? Or are we still waiting for somebody to step in and fill that position for us?” 
"A creative life is any life based more on curiosity than fear." 
"Fear wants you to live the smallest possible life." 

Oh and I LOVE her red shoes. Don't you just want to sing, "Somewhere Over the rainbow"? 

Iyanla Vanzant
Photo courtesy of Harper Studios Inc./ George Burns

Miss Iyanla, Miss Iyanla, Miss Iyanla. Yes honey! First of all, Iyanla Vanzat looked stunning the entire weekend. Of course the star of OWN's Iyanla Fix My Life kept it real with us. She strolled out to Shirley Horn's "Here's to Life," walked up to a table with a champagne glass, toasted to life and  She said:

"You’ve got to be willing to go through the pain to birth what you want.” 
"You can't force yourself to do something that doesn't matter to you."
"Don't squeeze yourself into things that don't fit." 
"There are some things you like hard, but life doesn't have to be one of them." (Yes, she went there.)
"Incarceration is physical. Imprisonment is in our minds." 
"Your eyes will adjust to the deficiency present. You need a spiritual practice to help you see more." 
"Courage is doing what you know you need to do before you're forced to do it." '
"Make loving you a priority." 

L-R Iyanla Vanzant, Rob Bell, Dr. Deepak Chopra,
Oprah Winfrey, Elizabeth Gilbert.
Photo courtesy of Harper Studios Inc./ George Burns

You know you're a deep person, when the first few letters of your name spell DEEP. I'm talking about Dr. Deepak Chopra. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to get to his meditation in time. But I was able to hear his meditation online. And I do the meditation he leads with Oprah. People I spoke to said I missed out that morning. I was able to catch Dr. Chopra later that day when he was speaking at O Town. These words from him changed my mind and frustrations about my life. 
He said, "Fear is not letting go of your idea of how things should be." 

That touched my spirit. I told myself right then, that I was going to accept I'm not where I want to be. But, I'm not going to settle for where I am either. I released so much frustration with those few words from Dr. Deepak Chopra. Honestly, had I attended his morning meditation, I might not have made the  effort to hear him in O Town. And I needed to hear those words. 

One of my favorite things about the weekend were these bracelets. Oprah brought the technology to this event. After you took a photo at O Town, the photographers scanned your bracelet and the photo would go straight to your social media account or email. They also light up. And they lit up during certain moments in people's speeches. It was a beautiful element during the weekend. 

I love the bracelet! It made the night. 

I think my Sigma Gamma Rho-ness turned
the arena RHOyal Blue. Or it was the
light on our bracelet. 

That sums up my Oprah's The Life You Want Weekend. I truly had a life changing time and I'm looking forward to the future. If you like Oprah and need to be inspired, I suggest you go. My only concerns were the price and the bathroom lines. The tickets started at $99 and went up to nearly $1,000. For $1k you got to take a picture with Oprah. I was about 1 1/2 sections away from the floor and my ticket was valued around $600. One blogger I spoke to said you can look it like an investment. I can see that because I felt what I walked away with was priceless. On the other hand, the experience could be beneficial to those who can't afford to attend. I hope Oprah releases a DVD of the event so that people who couldn't afford to go can still benefit from the uplifting speeches. 

As for the bathrooms, imagine being in an arena with thousands of women and probably less than 100 men. Imagine nearly all of the women trying to use the ladies room at once. The lines were so long! The arena should've opened some of the men's restrooms to women. I actually heard security stopping women from going into the men's restrooms. Things got better once the arena's security kept the lines moving in the women's restroom. 

I want to end on a positive note. You can't go to an Oprah event without her giving something away. A lot of black girls will grow up to live the life they want thanks to Kimberly Bryant, founder of Black Girls Code. She was the recipient of the Toyota Standing O-vation award for her service. Kimberly's program teaches computer coding to black girls around the country. You can watch her story here. I've followed Bryant's work and she definitely deserved the award. 

L-R: Athlete Amy Purdy, Kimberly Bryant, Oprah
Photo courtesy of Harper Studios Inc./ George Burns

It was an amazing weekend! Or should I say O-mazing weekend. I am so thankful I had the opportunity to go. I'm ready to be victorious and make my dreams a reality.