April 3, 2024

Maya Angelou on How she Hoped to Be Remembered.

One of my favorite things about life is realizing that there is always something left to learn.

Always.

Every day brings with it the opportunity to see something that sparks our interest. Or watch something that fills in a hole we never knew was empty. Or read something that gives us new insight into someone we didn’t know or always admired.

Today, I came across a Maya Angelou quote that I had never read before.

This isn’t shocking considering Angelou was a prolific writer. But something about this quote made me want to know more.

I wanted to know when she said it and who she said it to. I wanted to know what inspired it. I wanted to know the story behind it.

So I ventured over to Google, did a little digging, and discovered something I don’t remember ever learning about Angelou, who I studied in multiple courses in high school and college.

I learned that, for a time, Angelou worked as a journalist in Egypt in 1960.

While I had always looked up to her, learning this new-found fact—especially as someone who majored in journalism and worked in the field—left me feeling just a little bit closer this woman who had lived her life with such wisdom, passion, and bravery.

As I was reading about her experience as a Black female journalist in a foreign country in the 60s, I marveled at the many hats she wore throughout her life, and began wondering about the hats we all wear. The jobs we have. The relationships we create. The passions we pick up and put down. The decisions we look back on. The identities we choose to show the world. The stories we live to tell. The way we hope to be remembered.

And then I came across the full quote I had originally gone in search of.

In 1988, editor Barbara Reynolds interviewed Angelou for a book inspired by her poem “Still I Rise.” Reynolds asked: “Looking back on your life, what do you feel you have contributed?”

Angelou’s words, as expected, were a lesson in the stories we live to tell and the way we want to be remembered:

“What I really would like said about me is that I dared to love. By love I mean that condition in the human spirit so profound it encourages us to develop courage and build bridges, and then to trust those bridges and cross the bridges in attempts to reach other human beings.

I would like to be remembered as a person who dared to love and as a very religious woman. I pray a lot. I am convinced that I am a child of God. And that everybody is a child of God. Now I blow it a lot. I am not proud of that, but I do forgive myself and try to ameliorate my actions.”

Words to live—and learn—by.

~

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