“Oh my God!” and “Are you serious?” I exclaimed at the top of my lungs. And although the shrill of my voice annoyed me, I couldn’t find any other way to express my amazement. There were seconds of mind-tripping silence and then the uncontrollable shrieking would resume.
I was screaming because I’d just been told that, along with another writer, I would be interviewing Dr. Maya Angelou!!!
There are times in life we pray, but we don’t feel qualified for the blessing. For me, speaking to Dr. Angelou was one of those prayers. In my depression, I wrestled with my humanity and failures. God used her writings to help restore my hope.
As a writer, I admired her respect for words—she weaved them like a skilled seamstress and left us breathless. As a human, she dared to own her destiny. She took what she knew about life and was courageous enough to share it so that all of us could learn—and then teach. Truthfully, next to Jesus, there was no person in history that I wanted to talk to more.
The morning of the phone interview, waves of nervousness crashed in my stomach. I wanted to be professional, but I was in awe of her genius. Shortly before the call, I received news that a loved one had died.
Two emotional extremes twisted in my heart. There was grief for a friend and intense joy because I was literally minutes away from an answered prayer. I realize now that handling dichotomy is what she taught us to do. She showed us how to be the best of ourselves in the worst of circumstances. Her wisdom revealed our responsibility to our greatness, while never forgetting our potential for depravity.
I am deeply saddened by her passing—but she lived so brilliantly! The power of her words that carry her unsinkable spirit, live on. They will transcend time, our differences and even death.
Today, I honor her by sharing just three of the many things she taught me about living:
1. I Choose My Change: Leaving home as a young mother at 17, her mother told her, “You know the difference between right and wrong. Do right. Don’t let anybody raise you and make you change.” I grew up in a home that emphasized doing right, but I was released into a world that valued convenience. I struggled with this inconsistency. During a tough time, this story helped me reclaim ownership of my life. My integrity is never up for negotiation. Her words gave me the strength to be grown—even if it meant standing alone.
2. I Choose My Environment: In an interview with Oprah, she shared how she maintained her spiritual environment. “I believe that a negative statement is poison…if you allow it to perch in your house, in your mind, in your life, it can take you over.” Words have the power to strengthen or deplete us. We have the right and responsibility to control our environment. She taught me not to complain about what I allow. I have to own being grown.
3. I Wasn’t Made to Fit In: “If you’re always trying to be normal, you will never know how amazing you can be.” We praise originality, but long for conformity. We all, at same point, feel alone—as if we don’t belong. It is when we dare to express our uniqueness that we find ourselves. Dr. Angelou reminded us that we can only be great and transform others through our authenticity.
Please join me on Twitter @AskCoachFelicia and share how Dr. Angelou taught you to rise!
Named the “North America’s Next Greatest Speaker” by eWomenNetwork, Coach Felicia is a Certified Empowerment Coach™ who empowers her clients to "Turn their Worth into Wealth" as she partners with them to DISCOVER their WORTH, DO the WORK and DEFINE their WEALTH. Get more insight, download the FREE “8 Choices Winners Must Make” seminar MP3 on her website.