I am feeling all of the feels this morning.
It is a cloudy, rainy day here in Rockport, MA, and my last day on vacation. In the past four days, I’ve spent more time away from technology than I think I’ve ever have, ate more delicious seafood than I’ve ever have, and spent more alone time than I’ve ever have. I came up to this quiet, quaint town to get some brain space. So many things are always happening in the city and I’ve been overwhelmed for the vast majority of the last three years because of it. This vacation was a little gift to myself; a real chance to not do anything, not have an agenda, not have to be at any specific place at any specific time. I am just here, by myself, with myself, and for myself.
As I woke up this morning, I heard the rain falling outside of my window and immediately wished I didn’t have to leave today. I laid in bed thinking of all of the things I could do in my little cottage on this rainy day so I took out my iPad to look up flights to leave tomorrow. Naturally, I ended up on FaceBook and saw this post from my friend KeeLay:
“‘My great hope is to laugh as much as I cry; to get my work done and try to love somebody and have the courage to accept the love in return.’ - Maya Angelou, I think you succeeded, Mama! Go rest you beautiful and inspirational spirit! I have no doubt your words and light will live on for centuries.”
A little lump rose in my throat and my eyes welled up. Oh man. Oh no. No, no, no! I rarely feel anything about the deaths of celebrities and prominent figures, let alone post about it… but Maya? I feel like our world just lost one of its brightest lights.
My first introduction to Maya Angelou was in 7th grade, when I read this quote in an English class:
“If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude. Don’t complain.”
It’s still one of my all-time favorite quotes, and something I remind myself of whenever I’m feeling powerless. Her words have always touched me, but as I’ve gotten older, her life story and journey has impacted me in a profound way. Here was a woman who was raped as a child, had a child at 17, and worked as a prostitute. By the end of her life, though, she was recognized as an American Poet Laureate, an acclaimed author, and most importantly, a beacon of light for people around the world. Her journey from dark to light inspires me.
Growing up, I had always been taught to be good. You were supposed to get good grades, get into a good college, get a good job, marry a good person, have a nice family, and that was that. This theme of good has always pervaded my life, like a pretty little box with a bow on top that I was supposed to fit into. Goodness meant not getting in trouble, more than anything. It signified the idea of playing by the rules that my parents and society had set. It meant not getting any tattoos or piercings; it meant coming home by curfew; it meant not dating anyone in high school; ultimately, it meant playing small. In my journey of self-discovery, I’ve realized how caged in I have been by that word. My decisions, both subconsciously and consciously, have always been made with the picture of goodness in my head. When I learned about the histories of people like Maya Angelou, and Nelson Mandela, I started to realize that goodness, in the way it was taught to me, means nothing. There are people in the world that face terrible circumstances and through their strength and courage, find ways to rise above. Maya Angelou has been a daily reminder to me; a message to shift my mindset, a reminder to release the idea of good so that I can become great.
So, on this rainy day, as I pack up my things and head back to the real world, I’m thinking about this courageous woman. I keep tearing up, and my heart is so full. Thank you, Maya, for your journey, for your wisdom, and for your courage to share it. Rest in peace, love, and light.