I have a quote attached to my cork board right above my desk, and it reads:
“My wish for you is that you continue. Continue to be who you are, to astonish a mean world with your acts of kindness.”
During my writing sessions, I often find my eyes wandering to this quote. It reminds me to write my truth. When I read an unfavorable review, this quote reminds me to keep on creating. When I receive an ugly email or a vicious note, this quote reminds me to continue being exactly who I am. When I feel alone, this quote bolsters me in my wilderness.
I had the privilege of hearing Maya Angelou speak when I was in college. In fact, I had the privilege of covering her speech for the student newspaper, which means I got to shake her hand and look in her eyes and be changed by this brief meeting. It was one of my favorite moments in life, because Angelou has always been a hero of mine. I’m sure she didn’t remember a 19-year-old girl after leaving the Texas State University campus, but I will remember that meeting for the rest of my life.
She was a pillar of beauty, strength, grace, forgiveness. She exuded love by her very being.
To be like her. To be courageous enough to be who I am, to astonish a mean world with acts of kindness. To simply continue.
How do we do this?
Someone much more skilled in the interview process than I was at 19 can help out here. Bill Moyers, an American journalist, once asked Angelou some vital questions:
Moyers: Do you belong anywhere?
Angelou: I haven’t yet.
Moyers: Do you belong to anyone?
Angelou: More and more. I mean, I belong to myself. I’m very proud of that. I am very concerned about how I look at Maya. I like Maya very much. I like the humor and courage very much. And when I find myself acting in a way that isn’t…that doesn’t please me—then I have to deal with that.
This is it. This is what I saw as an inexperienced 19-year-old, meeting Maya Angelou for the first time. This is what I saw all over her written works, which I have read and re-read over the course of my life. She belonged to herself. The whole world could come against her—and, in fact, it tried many times—and she would still stand on her two feet and say, “I am still here, continuing.”
Every day, when I drop my sons off at school, I hug them tightly and say, “Have a wonderful day. Remember who you are. Strong, kind, courageous, and mostly my son.” This is their mission: to continue being who they are.
Some things in this world don’t make the least bit of sense. People rail against the choices we make in our lives. Criticism knocks our knees out from under us. Circumstances beat us down. Life is hard. In a perfect life, cancer doesn’t come out of the blue and steal the seemingly endless future of someone you love. Hate mail doesn’t sail through the cyber waves. There is no violence.
But this is not a perfect world. Sometimes it is incredibly difficult to continue—continue loving, continue spreading kindness, continue being who we are.
But my wish, like Angelou’s, is for you to continue. Continue to be who you are, to shock—no, astonish—the world with your acts of kindness and mercy and grace. With your love.
This is how you will belong to yourself.
(Photo by John Baker on Unsplash)
When assigned this essay, I wanted to take a step back from descriptive scenes. I also began to wonder “Does society destroy your sense of self in compromise of your belonging?” since none of our driving questions exactly touched on this, which is why I named this ” The compromise for Identity”. I hope that my point gets across without being repetitive, and I also hope my comparisons of being a part of a bigger picture tied well into the piece.
Society makes you choose between a high sense of self and the sense of belonging, for a compromise of both. In this I can see that one will construct their own self for it to be rejected, because their self won’t let them belong, striving to be too different can cause you to be an outcast in a community or in all communities said people/person strive to belong to. Everyone has an identity but society makes you choose what it is tied to. Being your true self limits you from being in communities; Interchangeably, one must have both, belonging and sense of self; however generally gives more than the other in exchange.Trying to be yourself and being vetoed by the community, teaches one that they must compromise compromise the two thing’s tied to identity for the other. This theory is proven that one lies atop the other, when someone asks about identity “I am…” one will either describe their self or ]describe something they are a part of, either “I am puerto rican puerto rican” or “I am an optimistic optimistic person”. In most cases, people will identify as either “I belong” or “myself is”, though you can have both people tend to battle the other. Though they both contribute to your identity, we tend to either choose sense of self or belonging, when it comes down to answering answering the question “Who am i?”. Am I from SLA? Am I a writer in a high school English class? Am I a Woman? Am I brilliant? Am I Puerto-rican? Am I optimistic? The answers to all of these are yes.
Shaping identity is dependent on self perception. The things that you tell yourself about your identity become your self along with the belonging that you can help and the belonging you can’t help for example being born into a community and joining a community(social belonging). These thing’s that you tell yourself become a piece of you along with the pieces you gain from belonging.
Lopez, Mark Hugo. “Hispanic and Latino Identity Is Changing.” Nytimes. NY times, 11 June 2015. Web. 19 Jan. 2017. http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2015/06/16/how-fluid-is-racial-identity/hispanic-and-latino-identity-is-disappearing.
Newton, Thandie. “Embracing otherness, embracing myself.” Thandie Newton: Embracing otherness, embracing myself | TED Talk | TED.com. N.p., July 2011. Web. 19 Jan. 2017. https://www.ted.com/talks/thandie_newton_embracing_otherness_embracing_myself?language=en#t-560227.