Thursday, December 05, 2013

An Email from Christiane Amanpour

Vol. III, No. 9

Forty days w/o my girl who now has an accent
WELLINGTON — "Mum!" my little girl shouted when she saw me. It had been forty days since I'd seen her last, and she seemed taller, more filled out, more a child than the baby I'd left behind. For the last six weeks, I'd been traveling to New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Washington D.C., and Cincinnati, launching my book and making speeches about following your dreams. Although I'd tried to Skype with my daughter during that period, the time difference between Wellington and America made it difficult to arrange. And, Skyping seemed to upset my little girl. Although she tried, she couldn't fit her breakfast toast through the computer screen to feed me, and somehow that was her clue that I wasn't really there.

So, all this got me to thinking about Christiane Amanpour. As many of you know, she's the woman who inspired me all those years ago to follow my dream out of banking and into journalism. As I wrote in LIVE from Mongolia, and as I said at every single book launch speech from New York to New Zealand, I knew where Christiane was…was where I wanted to be. Christiane had also followed a dream into journalism, and this is how she describes her journey, in her keynote speech in September 2000 at the Edward R. Murrow Awards Ceremony:

"I arrived at CNN with a suitcase, with my bicycle, and with about 100 dollars … it was really exciting. We were pioneers … and I was really just the tea boy to begin with, or the equivalent thereof, but I quickly announced, innocently but very ambitiously, that I wanted to be, I was going to be, a foreign correspondent."

I've read this speech of Christiane's countless times, and each time I do, it gives me the same chills down my spine that it did that first time I stumbled upon it. When I finally quit my banking job to pursue journalism in Mongolia in 2006, I sat in an internet cafe in Ulaanbaatar and pondered once more the woman who'd inspired me to leave behind my sensible and promising career for a very, very different path. And that's when I decided to email Christiane to say all this. It took me quite a bit of time to work up the courage to actually hit 'send' on a mail that was preposterously long and loquacious, but finally, I did so. A few weeks later, there was a message in my inbox, a message from Christiane Amanpour herself.

Christiane apologized for taking so long to respond, wished me well, and then said the very thing that would keep me going when the doubts would soon begin to appear, and I had an awful lot of doubts in those years. Although I never doubted The Path, as it were, I did doubt myself and what I was actually capable of. Christiane said, "I can see you are doing wonderfully with the motivation it takes to do this kind of thing."

Motivation. Christiane Amanpour thought I was motivated! If your inspiration thinks you're motivated, well then, you have no excuse. Why would you waste time thinking otherwise? Of course, I did spend some time thinking otherwise, and doing so left me with a choice between following my dream to CNN, or returning to banking for "one more bonus." But I won't spoil the story for you; the book ends with a bit of a surprise, a situation and decision that surprised me too, and I was the one in the situation making the decision!

So, as I return to New Zealand and my husband and daughter, after forty days on my book tour talking about these things, I'm reminded of Christiane's advice and assessment from all those years ago. I'm encouraged that the nature of pursuit is not a single-minded path, but sometimes a circuitous adventure, one that requires motivation to keep going, despite the doubts, even when you've been gone so long that, in your absence, your daughter has developed an accent.

"No!" my little girl said to me, as we spent days hugging each other and reacquainting.

"I was on an adventure," I explained to her, carefully sounding out the word. "Can you say 'adventure'?"

"No!" she exclaimed again. But she pronounced it with her new accent, "Nye-oh!"

Patricia Sexton is the author of LIVE from Mongolia, a #1 best-seller on Amazon. She's hosted Sinovision's WE Talk, a talk show exploring how people overcome extraordinary obstacles to pursue their dreams. She's worked for CBS News and written for Britain's International Life. Sexton authors this weekly blog about following dreams and dream-followers. Follow her on Twitter @PatriciaSexton and on Facebook @LIVEfromMongolia


Lissa Carlino said...

You are an inspiration to me. And to your daughter. We need more women like you to have daughters who inspire other daughters...

Patricia Sexton: Author, TV Host, Dreamer said...

Lissa, that was a wonderful thing to say. Thank you. And while you're at it, take a look in the mirror! You're on an adventure yourself, one that has made Gus's life richer. And yours too.