I was first formally introduced to Maya Angelou’s work in middle school, through typical fashion of many school curriculums. This was also when I decided that English was my favorite subject. I began to develop a fascination with literature, and vocabulary, and grammar, and the language arts in general. I started to learn that my own voice—which, as with many people at such an age, was hard to find and convey to the world around me— was best brought to life by putting my words on paper.
Her passing struck a chord with me of unexpected intensity, and I admit that only in retrospect have I realized my true admiration for Dr. Angelou. Seeing and hearing the greatest of her great words reverberate from every outlet helped me recognize not only her impact on the world, but how she, and many others like her, so discreetly yet intensely played a role in helping me find myself in a time when I was so lost.
While writing is not my livelihood, nor can I claim an expertise, it was the one thing I was able to gravitate toward at the age when many seek and find their “thing” in life. Growing up, I never had a truly displayable talent. I didn’t bring home trophies for sports, or show signs of musical prodigy, but I did find an affection for words, and the beautiful, elegant complexity of the English language.
It was through my love of word-craft that, as an awkward child, troubled teen, and still today as a young professional struggling to exist in a world full of people far beyond my age, I was able to find my place and prove my stature in ways beyond my physical presence. I found that I don’t have to be the biggest man in the room to sometimes have the biggest word.
Maya Angelou is proof that a legacy is not really what you did, what you wore, how you looked, or what you were worth, but rather the words you leave behind that will continue to make a difference for generations beyond your own. Words that will forever make people feel beautiful, or powerful, or free, or inspire someone like me to write in a blog I haven’t logged into for years. I think one of the greatest achievements you can make in a lifetime is to leave behind words worth permanence. In a way, if your words live on, you live forever.