Maya Angelou died this morning. She was 86.
It’s hard to put into words the feelings you get when someone passes who you never personally knew, but still felt like you knew.
Since my early childhood, I’ve felt strongly about girls and boys (and women and men) being equal, even though we were not equals in the eyes of our society. I looked to powerful women, women who were known for their strength of character, their intelligence, and their effect on social change, as examples of what I could become, and what I wanted to become, despite how it flew against all I knew to be ‘feminine’.
Maya Angelou was a figure I looked up to, for this reason. She was not carefully coiffed like women were ‘supposed’ to be, though she always looked pleasing and appropriate. No, she was a fighter. She spoke out. She spoke her mind. And she was loved and respected for it. I wanted that for me, and even though puberty got me behaving in a completely contrary manner, Maya still represented something good to me. A dream.
As an adult, you get busy. You lose track of your childhood dreams, and dreaming in general. The every day, with its million small tasks, seems of life or death importance. You lose track of your childhood idols, too.
But they’re growing old as you’re growing up, and it comes to a time when they’ve finished their time on earth. And it feels like it comes out of the blue, and like you’ve lost a piece of yourself; your youth, your beginnings, your own dreams.
Maya Angelou had a very difficult life. But somehow, she managed to do great things. She managed to push past the million small tasks to accomplish levels of success that inspired and impressed millions. I’m sad today because of her passing, but I am so much more grateful for her living, and feeling lucky and blessed that I got to witness a piece of her life.