Maya Angelou is perhaps one of the most renowned modern poets and writers and is a common name in nearly every household. Born Marguerite Annie Johnson in St. Louis, Missouri, her older brother christened her Maya. Her childhood years were tumultuous, due to her parents crumbling marriage. Shuttled off to live with their grandmother after the separation, she enjoyed a few good years with her grandmother before being forced to return to her mother's home at the age of 8. It was here that a tragic series of events led to 5 years of silence from the young girl, during which she developed her passion for the world of literature.
Over the next few years of her life, she pursued this passion wholeheartedly, along with dance, music. and acting. A life filled with adversity and struggle burst forth the civil rights activist in her. Apart from her work in the arts, she also held a multitude of other jobs, including sex worker, fry cook, and even professor. She came to be a spokesperson for her gender, her community, her country, and her strong philosophical ideals.
Her most famous work is entitled “I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings”, and it is an autobiographical piece that tracks this artist’s journey from a victim to a pillar of strength and dignity, first for herself, and later for the world. Though we lost this strong soul in 2014, her books, poems, and other expressions remain close to us. Her words remind us to find our own strength and that hard work and perseverance are the greatest tools we all possess.
1. On limited space
“Hope and fear cannot occupy the same space. Invite one to stay.”
2. On finding the right path
“If you are going down a road and don't like what's in front of you, and look behind you and don't like what you see, get off the road. Create a new path!”
3. On what connects us all
“It is sad but true that sometimes we need the tragedy to help us to see how human we are and how we are more alike than we are different.”
4. On our true potential
“If you are always trying to be normal, you will never know how amazing you can be.”
5. On her mission in life
“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.”
6. On expectations
“When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time. People know themselves much better than you do. That's why it's important to stop expecting them to be something other than who they are.”
7. On hate
“Hate; it has caused a lot of problems in the world, but has not solved one yet.”
8. On love
“We need Joy as we need air. We need Love as we need water. We need each other as we need the earth we share.”
9. On perspective
“If you must look back, do so forgivingly. If you will look forward, do so prayerfully. But the wisest course would be to be present in the present gratefully.”
10. On beauty
“We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.”
11. On goals
“Try to be a rainbow in someone's cloud.”
12. On choices
“Light and shadow are opposite sides of the same coin. We can illuminate our paths or darken our way. It is a matter of choice.”
13. On balancing hope
“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.”
14. On kindness
“My wish for you is that you continue. Continue to be who and how you are, to astonish a mean world with your acts of kindness.”
15. On using what you know
“Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”
16. On living without regret
“Just do right. Right may not be expedient, it may not be profitable, but it will satisfy your soul. It brings you the kind of protection that bodyguards can’t give you. So try to live your life in a way that you will not regret years of useless virtue and inertia and timidity.
Take up the battle.
Take it up.
This is your life.
This is your world.”
Image credits: Flickr, National Park Service/ Wikimedia Commons