In 1945, weeks after graduating from high school and with no support from the child’s father, 17-year-old Maya Angelou gave birth to her only son. Two months later, desperate for independence, she moved out of her mother’s home, found accommodation of her own, and began to raise her son. Over the next 70 years, Maya Angelou achieved more than most as a celebrated and award-winning author, poet, educator, dramatist, actress, filmmaker, and activist. The first of her seven autobiographies, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, is considered a classic.
Eight years ago, she wrote a letter of advice to her younger self. It was reprinted in the book, What I Know Now: Letters to My Younger Self.
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,