Wow. Have you ever looked at an old picture and been instantly transported back in time -- to the point where you can feel the fabric of the shirt you were wearing, and smell the room you were standing in?
That's what this photo [below] does for me. I was 21 years old. I had bought the entire outfit off a mannequin at Cain-Sloan in Nashville. (Never was a bargain shopper. To this day, going through racks of clothes looking for a find makes me anxious.) The skirt cost $40. I'd never spent that much on a single item of clothing.
But I was willing to do it for my first major celebrity interview: Jesse Jackson. He was speaking at a local high school, telling students, "Down with dope, up with hope!" and I had been assigned to cover him. My news director didn't think the event was worth our time, but I'd insisted (okay, pleaded), assuring him I could come back with a piece worthy of the 6 o'clock news. And I did.
I had a fondness for telling other people's stories, extracting the truth of their experience into a digestible nugget that could inform, inspire, or benefit someone else. Still, I was uncertain about what to say or how to say it. The truth is, I was just moving on instinct.
If I knew then what I know now, I would never have wasted even a single minute doubting my path. It may be human nature to question and doubt, but the older I get, the less I worry about anything. I can see life unfolding in divine order. And even in times of the greatest turmoil, I can stop, get still, and see with utter clarity: This, too, shall pass.
Because everything always does. Until finally we do.
No matter what you're struggling through -- no matter the pain or anguish -- you can go inside behind your mind and observe it happening to you. Whatever it is, it isn't you. You are the observer.
When you come to know this, you realize that even though the canvas of your life is painted with daily experiences, behaviors, reactions, and emotions, you're the one controlling the brush.
What a wonder! It would have been nice to know this at 21. I could have saved myself a lot of heartache and self-doubt. But to fully understand, at any age, that you are the artist of your own life -- and can use as many colors and textures as possible (and erase when necessary!)... now, that's a revelation.
Editor's note: This story was previously published in O, The Oprah Magazine.