If there has ever been a woman who could be described as phenomenal, it would be Dr. Maya Angelou. Despite leaving her physical body on May 28, 2014, at the age of 86, her legacy lives on through her inspiring words which continue to lift hearts all over the world.
Maya Angelou was a powerhouse who gave us the gift of words so powerful that I often hold my breath when I read them. A prolific writer, she was the author of over 30 books and the recipient of more than 50 honorary degrees. Her first book, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, a powerful memoir of her experience of sexual trauma, was released in 1969, long before #MeToo and #TimesUp. Her mother’s boyfriend raped her as a child and was later beaten to death, causing Angelou to stop talking for a time, in fear of the power of her own voice.
She rediscovered the power of words at the age of 40 when she started putting pen to paper. One of her most inspiring poems, ‘Still I Rise’, gives me goosebumps every time I hear it. This was a woman who was deeply connected to her roots and knew her own worth. This was a woman who was not afraid to fight for what she believed in, and who, despite all of the hardships in her life, believed in the good in the world, and above all, in the transformative power of love.
Oprah Winfrey, who describes Maya Angelou as her “spiritual queen mother” and ultimate teacher, says today:
Maya Angelou is not what she has done or written or spoken, it’s how she did it all. She moved through the world with unshakeable calm, confidence, and a fiery, fierce grace and abounding love.
The literary legend led a rich and extraordinary life. She was a cook, sex-worker, dancer, actor, playwright, and opera actor before she became a writer. All of these experiences helped to shape her writing, her ability to touch the pulse of life, and bring us all to our knees.
Born in St. Louis in 1928, Maya Angelou had an unmistakable rhythm to her soul, a deep strength that held her up and the ability to make words dance. Just like a phoenix, she faced adversity in her life, and rose, again and again, from the ashes.
Having lived her life to the fullest against all odds, Maya Angelou fought to show the world the truth of what she believed– that every life counts and “it takes each of us to make a difference for all of us.” Today, we’re sharing inspiration from the great woman herself, so that we can all rise together.
Inspiration from a Poet that Will Make Your Heart Sing
My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.
On the power of perspective:
If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.
On what really counts:
I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.
On the power of forgiveness:
It’s one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself, to forgive. Forgive everybody.
On having your own back:
I learned a long time ago the wisest thing I can do is be on my own side, be an advocate for myself.
On finding the balance:
A wise woman wishes to be no one’s enemy; a wise woman refuses to be anyone’s victim.
On the importance of courage:
One isn’t necessarily born with courage, but one is born with potential. Without courage, we cannot practice any other virtue with consistency. We can’t be kind, true, merciful, generous, or honest.
On personal growth:
We have to confront ourselves. Do we like what we see in the mirror? And, according to our light, according to our understanding, according to our courage, we will have to say yea or nay – and rise!
On the value of each and every action:
I’m convinced of this: Good done anywhere is good done everywhere. For a change, start by speaking to people rather than walking by them like they’re stones that don’t matter. As long as you’re breathing, it’s never too late to do some good.
On aging your own way:
The most important thing I can tell you about aging is this: If you really feel that you want to have an off-the-shoulder blouse and some big beads and thong sandals and a dirndl skirt and a magnolia in your hair, do it. Even if you’re wrinkled.
And finally, on herself:
I would like to be known as an intelligent woman, a courageous woman, a loving woman, a woman who teaches by being.