Thursday, June 5, 2014

There I Go Rising: A Thank You Letter to Maya Angelou

 by Sam Allen


My dear Maya Angelou,

You were a role model, in a time before I forgot that I had them.

I wasn't alienated as a kid; that came later.

Back then, I was bright-eyed and sure that I would be a writer when I grew up. It was just a fact of life, like going camping in the summertime and getting shiny new pink bicycles for Easter.

Even though my mom was a single mom on a part-time salary.

And when you died, I felt a resurgence of hope. Because you reminded me of myself.

Thank you, Maya Angelou, for being my role model when I was a happy young girl.

These days, I play Phenomenal Woman before I go to work, and recite the line, "There I go rising" as I struggle to fry donuts at work without mangling them. You help me to reconnect with my younger self, the optimistic one who was nurtured by so many people. Teachers, more teachers, and even more teachers. Plus writers, I think.

I lit a candle for you at church yesterday, my hands shaking, and the whole room moaned in appreciation for you. I wanted to say, "You Are a Phenomenal Woman," but I didn't want to accidentally set the place on fire. A man came up to me and said that you reached the unreachable kids with your words.

I was unreachable for a long time, silent, even mute, like you. I couldn't write after being ridiculed as the exact opposite of a precocious writer. It hurt so bad that her words echoed in my head for years whenever I positioned my fingers above my ergonomic keyboard bought for me by my dad.

My parents loved me, but that didn't matter for years. For me, social reality was everything, and parents were parts apart from that. Now I realize that they helped me to be who I am.

I quit my job after three days of mangling donuts, and although my parents still matter, I wonder what you would think. You say, "we may encounter defeats but we must not be defeated;" "I believe the most important thing, beyond discipline and creativity, is daring to dare."

Did I dare to dare? Yes. Did I use someone's permission to quit as a crutch? Maybe. What would you think? I liked myself on the job...I didn't get mad, even when other people got frustrated with me. I was consistently kind and courteous and, yes, forgiving. I shared smiles with my co-workers even when I was struggling to remember all of the steps to my job. I changed my attitude to accommodate the needs of my job, but ultimately, it was not the one for me. Sadly, I think.

Now, I struggle to be a writer. I feel joy because of you. Joy is what I remember most about you. How you made me feel. There I go rising.