My eyes were barely open this morning when my roommate told me Maya Angelou had passed. He wanted to tell me, so I would get clobbered the moment I went online.
The first thing I think I said–(it’s fuzzy)–was, “You’re kidding.”
I said the same thing the day my friend committed suicide. A part of me sprinted toward the limbo of utter shock.
How could such an amazing person not still exist?
And then I was comforted by the fact that, for people like me, she would always exist.
And then I asked, “What happened?”
He didn’t know. So I googled. And as far as I could tell, it was probably heart related.
And I wondered how this could happen. She wasn’t sick.
And then I read she was. She hid her frailty well, like most strong people.
And then I wondered how many precious people will lose their lives to this bullshit.
I’ve fought back tears all day, despite never actually meeting her. I wish I had. I imagine we’d have been lifelong friends. We already were.
I’ve been writing for most of my life. It started before I could really speak. There were margins in books, pens, and my red cowboy hat. I’d “ite” my stories in every margin I could find–and I’d eventually tell my Mama my stories–mostly because I had my own language back then.
And then I discovered reading, and I was lost to that for a good long while. In middle school–Ms. Wilmot’s class–I learned about poetry. I mostly wrote silly things–like fish. There was one exception, of course–probably the most important exception…but I didn’t realize its meaning until a couple years later when I found Maya Angelou and her caged bird.
There are moments when you know exactly who you are and why you’re here. And that was one of them for me. From that point on, I couldn’t be quiet about things. What I couldn’t say–I wrote. Everything. It kept me alive. I’ve no doubt of that.
Today, I’m a published poet. I’ve won a playwriting competition. I’ve written tons of other things, including a novel. But before any of that, I knew I was a writer. And no matter what, that’s what I’ll always be. I owe a lot of that to Ms. Angelou.
Beyond writing, I was always so inspired by this woman. I remember listening to her talk about her work with Dr. King. I remember how sad it made me. She had this unique ability to say the things everyone was thinking in such a way that they could cut through you with some kind of exquisiteness you never knew could exist. She opened my eyes and made me braver. I will always live my life by some of the things she said…things like, “If someone shows you who they are, believe them.” I will always attempt to show people who I am. I will always believe. And I will believe in words and their ability to inspire the impossible.