Writing the Next Chapter
I distinctly remember the sound of the gate latching, the metal gate latching behind me, as I walked out of the White House for the last time. So many times (imitates sound of gate latch) you know? I'd gone in and out in and out in and out. But as I'm walking out knowing, "This is the last time, that I'm walking out of the White House." And so many people had wondered, although few people would ask, but I could see it in their eyes, "What are you gonna do next?" (audience laughing) "What are you gonna do after this?" And the truth was I had no idea, because I didn't have any time to think about it. Again my role was to document for history. There's no like wondering. There's no like straying thoughts. Like you have to be completely focused and present, and that's what I was. So one thing I did know, is that I was gonna be a new mother. I had worked 'til December 23rd and had my daughter on December 29th. (audience laughing) So for the mouths dropping (laughs) and the math, the computin...
g. Everyone who's wondering, yes I did travel to different countries, different cities in the U.S. I did carry my own equipment, I did you know swift walking, maybe I wasn't running so much anymore and for most of my pregnancy. And I wouldn't have done it any other way. So you know, on December 29th, I welcomed a healthy baby girl into the world and I knew that I would be a Mom and have to figure out how to do that (laughs). And a few months later, I would have been contacted by a literary agent, to ask if I wanted to make a book, of my photos, with my story about being a White House photographer. A few more months later, I'd have to come out from behind the camera. Can you imagine that? Can no (laughs) (audience laughs) I'm speaking to the camera man and as the photographer it was a lot more comfortable for me to be behind the lens. So when my publicist said "Oh we're scheduled you for, to have an interview with Robin Roberts, on Good Morning America and Anderson Cooper and I was like "Ahhh I don't know if I can do this anymore, can we cancel the book?" You know? (laughs) Because it was a space that was very, very uncomfortable for me. And then I'd be on a book tour, talking to crowded rooms across the country, about this work. And then I'd adapt the book, for children ages eight to twelve, with lots of fun facts about the White House, things that I loved and admired and all different first families and how they used the rooms and so then I'd be on another book tour. Why am I telling you all this? Because all of it scared me to death. (audience laughs) Right? All of it absolutely scared me to death. I had never made a book before, I had never been on a book tour, I didn't like to be in front of the camera. The comfort zone whoop way back there! Way back there! You know? "What if I make a book and no one likes it?" "What if I make a book and try to rely on my journalism skills, from way back and I'm not a good writer?" You know? "What if I get out there and I mess up?" All of these things could have happened right? But, "What if I don't try?" "What if I don't see?" "What if I just stay here on this side of the comfort zone?" So I've come to realize that, fear is not necessarily a bad thing. It isn't a bad thing, it's just the thing that keeps us on our toes. You know? To make sure that we're doing a good job. So now, when I recognize that I'm feeling fearful, (deep inhale) I just take a breath say, "Oh hello fear. Thanks for being here, I know you want me to do a good job, you're kind of in the way." (audience laughs) "And I'm tryna' get to the other side, so if you'll just excuse me. I wanna see what's on the other side." So thank you so much for being here and listening. And I hope that we can all push ourselves past our comfort zone. Because I feel like that is where life and your work, gets really really good.