“The Person Who Changed My Life,” a two-hour special hosted by Anderson Cooper and Michaela Pereira, airs Sunday, January 24, at 8 p.m. ET/PT.
It is a rare assignment in our business that allows us to put ourselves at the center of the story. Obviously my task was meant to be just that in “The Person Who Changed My Life.” The proposition was simple and self explanatory – and for me, not a chore to pinpoint “my person.”
It was, however, a bit unsettling to dive so deeply into what is deeply personal and even self-indulgent.
One of the main tenets of my belief structure is that we all have a story. And by sharing those stories, we can learn more about each other, see that we have more in common than we don’t and, perhaps, through those shared stories and experiences find understanding.
I’ll admit the premise rings a bit Pollyannnaish, but I stand by it.
I also believe wholeheartedly that feeling and showing gratitude is not just important but essential for the human spirit.
So, with all this in mind, I felt good about sharing the story of Moyra Rodger, a former producer in the promotions department at CHEK, the local television station in Victoria in British Columbia, Canada where I worked, and how her advice and guidance affected not just my career but my life.
What I found most fascinating in the telling of our story is that putting so much attention on Moyra made her incredibly uncomfortable! I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised. In my many years of journalism and community service, rare is the hero or mentor who volunteers to stand in the spotlight. Moyra was no different; she almost squirmed any time a complimentary word of thanks was leveled her way.
It really comes down to belief. Belief in someone, belief in a cause, belief in an idea. And Moyra believed in me. She saw something that I didn’t see. Not that I didn’t want to – I spent YEARS searching for direction, praying for understanding, looking for answers about what I should do with my life. It seemed to come so easily to others; my elementary school friends declaring they would be a nurse, firefighter, lawyer, farmer when they grew up. In junior high and high school, I had pals who focused their course load to prepare them for careers they already had planned. While I was academic and heavily involved in athletics, student government and drama, I couldn’t with absolute certitude say where I hoped my path took me.
The one thing I knew was that I was going somewhere. I don’t mean that in a “stars in my eyes” way; I just mean that I knew in my heart of hearts that I had purpose. Problem was, I didn’t know what the purpose was.
So it was as though Moyra was a diviner, or an excavator. Whatever it was, she played a vital role in my voyage. Sometimes that’s what it takes: a word of encouragement, a prod in the right direction, a nod of approval. Sometimes it takes another person seeing what we can’t or don’t see in ourselves.
And that is just part of the role of a mentor. Even though we are in different places, me at CNN and she with her own digital media and marketing firm, Moyra has taken many a phone call from me: often frustrated, confused, sometimes even at the end of my rope. She has been a skillful tactician at delving into any issue with a pragmatic and reasonable eye, always ready with sound advice and a good word. We’ve combed through contracts, analyzed offers and strategized a way forward.
And through it all she has ALWAYS reminded me to be myself and to never forget where I come from.
In a beautiful twist, the producer who worked with me on both my “Roots” story that took us to Jamaica, and also “The Person Who Changed My Life” piece, has just set out on a voyage of her own. Marlei Martinez has been an instrumental part of the “New Day” team but recently left CNN to pursue her dream of being a reporter.
She starts in the next few weeks at a station in Alabama, and I couldn’t be more proud! We have spent A LOT of time together on the road over the past few years, and she shared with me about her goals. I cannot tell you how thrilling it is for me to have been able to see her stretch her wings and set out on this path.
#MyLifeChanger: In a tweet or Instagram post, tell us about the mentor, family member or once-in-a-lifetime friend that helped shape your life.