Many people have a ‘Bucket List’ after the popular 2007 Rob Reiner movie. I believe in the concept, just not the name. My list is a “Top 100 Experiences” because I have no plans to kick a bucket any time soon, nor do I choose to focus on the bucket. One of the experiences on my list was going to see Oprah at her studio in Chicago.

I had tried a number of times for two years to get through but to no avail. When Oprah announced this was her last season, I essentially gave up on ever seeing her show live and in person.

My husband sat my down near the end of August and told me to read the highlighted lines of some paper he put in my hands. I read aloud ‘Your reservations for the 11 am taping on September 15th in Chicago have been confirmed!‘ Apparently Jeff had also made a few attempts to get the tickets and on this last one, he got through. This will provide many ‘get out of the dog house FREE’ tickets.

In Chicago, we took a taxi from our quaint hotel to the Harpo Studios. After an hour waiting in line outside, we reached the doors for the building and were explicitly told there are no photos allowed. “Reservation and photo ID out please, the lead name in your party must be first” repeated over and over. We are handed two pieces of paper; one blue is the video release form, one green is the ‘who the heck are you?’ form. After security we are all herded upstairs into a holding room for another hour.

An Oprah staff member hands me a pen to fill out my papers. Reading the smaller, green sheet I see one side says, ‘What are some of your most memorable moments since you received your reservation confirmation?’

My answer was getting booked for a three-hour workshop at the MIT Entrepreneurial Masters Graduating Class in June 2011, and getting picked up by a speaker’s bureau. The other side of the green sheet asked, ‘since this is the 25th and last season of the Oprah Winfrey Show, we know we have touched many. We would like to know how this show has impacted you by finishing the statement, ‘Because of the Oprah Winfrey Show, I……’.

I wasn’t sure what to write, but I knew whatever it was I inked on those lines would be the difference between participating in the show or not. I decided to write the truth.

“…know that having introduced myself as the next Oprah for the last 8 years, my calling to have my own show and touch the world is possible. I will create my dream and live my best life!”

Jeff showed me his green sheet and had written something about being an Olympic Medalist and being part of his wife’s dream to see Oprah. Without another thought, we passed our pens and green sheets to the security guard and continued to wait.

After getting great seats near the top, middle of the studio we were looking around and absorbing the details of our surroundings. From stage right appears a lovely dark-haired lady to prep the audience. She begins to tell us what the show will be like and take questions about Oprah or the show itself. This goes on for about 10 minutes. I notice she is carrying a few green sheets in her hand along with her program notes. ‘I wonder if one of those could be mine’, I thought, trying to focus on my experience.

The audience prep women (I called her APW) finishes a sentence and then with a quick breath says, “Aly Pain, where are you Aly?”

Here are a few of my nanosecond thoughts:

I jumped up out of my chair, put my hand up and said ‘I’m over here!’

APW – ‘Aly, I have your card here and is says you introduce yourself as the next Oprah, is that true?’ The soundman has run up the stairs in our section and put a microphone on a long pole in front of me.

Me – “Yes, it is.”

APW – ‘Aly, I want you to tell us where you are from, what you do and why having your own show is your dream.’

My heart was racing as I attempted to look bold and confident.

Me – “I am from Calgary, Alberta, Canada. I am an Executive and Corporate Team Coach, Public Speaker and Author. The calling on my life is not to be Oprah, as much as I honor all that she has accomplished, it is to be as big with my own flavor. To educate, enlighten and inspire the world to live as is we were fully alive.”

The audience actually applauded at that.

APW – ‘Wow, that’s great. And what about your husband Jeff, is he there? I see he won an Olympic Medal or something?’

Jeff stands, “Yes, I am a 3-time Olympian and won the Silver Medal at the 2006 Olympic Winter Games in Italy in the sport of Men’s Skeleton”. The guests audibly gasp.

APW – ‘How many of you do not know what Skeleton is? Raise your hands’. About 50 people raise their hands so she asks Jeff to elaborate.

Jeff – “It’s basically like tobogganing for big people (laugh). We go head-first on a small sled down the bobsleigh track at average speeds of 60-90 miles/hour and pull 4-5 G’s.”

She also asked us if we had children, their ages, how long we had been married and if our children also do Skeleton (NO!!).

That was it. She thanked us, the audience applauded and we sat down. Good thing too, because I don’t think I remembered to breath nearer the end and I was starting to shake. I sat down in complete shock, squeezing Jeff’s hand harder than in childbirth. I just kept asking him, “Did that really just happen?” The audience prep went on for another 10 minutes or so and I only heard bits and pieces.

Watching the show being taped was fascinating. There are so many details viewers do not see. Being that close to Oprah and getting a sense of her was truly inspiring, and grounding. She is a real person, not just a figure whose likeness appears in pixels on a screen.

After the show, Jeff and I are the last ones to file out. By that time, the security guards are gone leaving only a few stage crew and us. So, I walked over the bridge way and out on to the stage. I stood right in the middle of the carpet ‘O’ and looked out, completely enveloped by the moment. A few of the people that had been sitting next to us saw me and started to clap. “How does it feel?” they asked. I paused for a moment, taking a deep breath and soaking in the view, “It’s perfect, just perfect”.

I looked from left to right, above me and below me, even turning to look behind me so I would remember every detail of standing on the middle of that stage. My stage, in that moment.

Four years ago I made a vision board that has been above my desk in my office. On the bottom right I clearly pasted a photo of Oprah on it, surrounded by the words ‘Oprah and Friends” and a photo of me on a microphone.

If I was unsure about setting intentions and the power of visions boards before this, I am 100% sold on them now. Off to finish my latest one!!

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