Remembering Maya Angelou: A Letter to Her Younger Self

“I am convinced that most people do not grow up … our real selves, the children inside, are still innocent and shy as magnolias,” wrote Maya Angelou. After her passing on May 28, 2014, the world remembers Maya Angelou as one of the most influential and inspiring voices in American literature and an activist who always strived for a more equal and just world. Angelou showed us that a life amounts to profound personal and shared experiences and the occurrences of internal metamorphoses across a span of years—and most importantly, that a life is meant to be cherished for both its own unique essence and its intersections with our common humanity.

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In a letter to her younger self, Angelou offers advice about honoring yourself and listening to yourself honestly and without judgment:

Dear Marguerite,

You’re itching to be on your own. You don’t want anybody telling you what time you have to be in at night or how to raise your baby. You’re going to leave your mother’s big comfortable house and she won’t stop you, because she knows you too well.

But listen to what she says:

When you walk out of my door, don’t let anybody raise you—you’ve been raised.

You know right from wrong.

In every relationship you make, you’ll have to show readiness to adjust and make adaptations.

Remember, you can always come home.

You will go home again when the world knocks you down—or when you fall down in full view of the world. But only for two or three weeks at a time. Your mother will pamper you and feed you your favorite meal of red beans and rice. You’ll make a practice of going home so she can liberate you again—one of the greatest gifts along with nurturing your courage, that she will give you.

Be courageous, but not foolhardy.

Walk proud as you are,
Maya

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