It was sometime during earlier childhood, that I first discovered my strange connection to the enchantment of words. My mother still likes to tell people of a time she asked what I wanted to eat for breakfast, to which I replied, “books.” I once even made a Valentine’s Day card for Ponyboy from The Outsiders and proclaimed to all my fifth grade friends that I was in love with him. I wanted a friend like Ponyboy, one who would read Gone With the Wind to me and recite Robert Frost poems like he does for Johnny. I could always count on my fictional friends to take me on literary adventures, to understand me no questions asked. I trusted them.
Now, years later, I’m still trying to figure out where this fascination with words stems from and I think I have it almost figured out. Almost.
Words make us feel something, whether we are happy or sad or in between; they cut to the core of us. They uncover our spirit and bring us to a raw and natural state. When we feel like we can’t rely on much else, we know we can rely on words. After all, that’s why you are sitting here right now at this precise moment and letting your eyes wander between my own particular arrangement of 26 letters on a page, because you believe in the words those letters are constructing.
Today, allow me to introduce you to the powerful words of Maya Angelou. They are words that have helped me throughout the course of my life. And I think they can help you too, if you let them.
1. “Surviving is important, thriving is elegant.”
This is the phrase. I carry it with me everywhere I go. I wake up with it in the morning. I go to sleep with it at night. I remind myself that every bad thing that has ever happened, has produced some sort of positive change in the end. Say it out loud. Say it backwards, forwards, all out of order and then repeat it four more times. Say it while you’re doing a headstand or cooking dinner or taking a bubble bath. Say it to a friend or neighbor or to the wall but most importantly, say it to yourself. And mean it.
2. “I’ve learned that you shouldn’t go through life with a catcher’s mitt on both hands; you need to be able to throw something back.”
These words remind me to speak up and speak out and sometimes, to even throw around some sass when I deem it to be necessary. Don’t be afraid to take off one of your mitts and throw something back every now and again, but always ask yourself, is it productive? Will the outcome yield something that is mutually more beneficial to both teams? If you can wait five seconds, take a deep breath, and answer yes to those questions, then throw throw throw away!
I understand that I’m not going to publish my first novel by tomorrow, or next week, or even in the next year. But I also understand that each achievement, each great achievement, comes from hard work, determination, and passion. These things often unfold at the precise moments in which they are meant to happen. If you want something, you will get it, eventually (so long as you push yourself). Give it time, my friends, give it time.
4. “I believe that every person is born with talent.”
Sometimes I encounter people who tell me, “I’m not good at anything.” I’ve heard this from kids, from adults, from elderly people close to death. The fact is, that each person truly is born with the ability to do something remarkable. The problem, is that many of us can go through life without discovering what that hidden talent may be because we are plagued by the fear of “not being good enough.” You may have within you the uncanny ability to dissect calculus equations while simultaneously hula hooping and eating a bowl of mint chip ice cream. But, you’ll never know if you don’t try. So TRY. Try it all. Make a point to try one new thing each week until your trying leads you to your talents.
5. “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”
And alas, this quote. Write it out. Simple as that. If you have a secret that you simply cannot share with anyone else in the entire world, then open up a journal, put pen to paper, and release it. Like I said earlier, there are 26 letters in the English alphabet…find a way to arrange them that means something to you.