Monday, June 2, 2014

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Maya's timeline and me

As I showered this morning, I pondered on Maya Angelou's life and what she accomplished. (Yes, I am still stuck on that).   Then I thought on how old I am and what I still want to accomplish and realized that she wasn't much younger than 1 when she wrote her first book.  It dawned on me then to do a timeline of her life to see what age she was at when she made her accomplishments.

These ages are approximate, but you get the picture.

Thankfully, WSOCTV started the project and I supplemented with the timelines at and a few other websites, and I mostly had to do the math to figure out her age.

April 4, 1928-  born in St. Louis, Missouri.

Age 9 raped by mothers boyfriend and becomes mute for a number of years

Age 13 Moved to California with mother and brother, when to high school and studied dance and drama at a college program.

14 years old-  dropped out of school, became San Francisco’s first African-American female car conductor.

16 years old Graduated high school, gave birth to son and only child.
Led a seedy life for a time, worked as a madam 

23 years old Married Greek Electrician Tosh Angelos despite disapproval of interracial relationships, Studied dance. 

26 years old Divorced first husband, danced and sang professionally, including touring Europe with "Porgy and Bess"

Age 29 First Albulm "Calypso Lady."

Age 30 - moved to New York,  joined the Harlem Writers Guild, acted in Jean Genet’s Off-Broadway production, "The Blacks," performed "Cabaret for Freedom."

Age 31 Began working in Civil rights movement

Age 32 moved to Cairo, Egypt, as editor of the English language weekly The Arab Observer.

Age 33  moved to Ghana, taught at the University of Ghana’s School of Music and Drama. worked as a feature editor for The African Review, wrote for The Ghanaian Times. (Son attended University of Ghana)

Age 36 moved back to America, worked with  Malcolm X 

Age 42  Published  her first book, "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings," received the Chubb Fellowship from Yale University.

Age 44   wrote the screenplay and composed the score for 
Film "Georgia, Georgia", nominated for Pulitzer Prize. 
1975 Member for National Commission on the observance of International Women's Year
Age 49 Appeared in Alex Haley’s "Roots."

Age 54 became Tenured Professor of American Studies at Wake Forest University

Age 56 Became friend and mentor to Oprah Winfrey

Age 65 Appeared in John Singleton’s Poetic Justice, Won Grammy Award for Best Spoken Word Or Non-Musical Album for “On the Pulse of Morning", a poem she wrote for President Clintons Inauguration.

Age 67 Won Grammy Award for Best Spoken Word Or Non-Musical Album for “Phenomenal Woman.”

Age 68 Directed her first feature film, Down in the Delta.

 Age 72 Awarded the Presidential Medal of arts.

Age 74 Won Grammy Award for Best Spoken Word Album with “A Song Flung Up To Heaven.”

Age 78 Won Mother Theresa Award

Age 80 Composed poetry for and narrated the award-winning documentary The Black Candle, directed by M.K. Asante. Also awarded the Lincoln Medal.

Age 83 Received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama at the White House.

Age 86– Sent her last tweet: “Listen to yourself and in that quietude you might hear the voice of God.”

May 28, 2014Maya Angelou passes away in her Winston Salem home.

So why was completing this timeline important to me?  Because I (many of us) feel inadequate in comparison to our heroes. We feel like we could never, ever, accomplish what they did in life.  But looking at Maya's timeline, I can see that the things I admire most about her began just a few years younger than I am now. Granted, her rich life experiences up until that pointed, tragic and impressive,  are the tools and experiences on which she built her life, but just because my path was a bit less "exciting", I can still see similarities.  I still experienced hardships I can learn from. I can still use my successes as a springboard to the future.

So I write this for myself and others who are struggling to move forward after the empty nest. Maya lived on her own, without her son from the age 36... it was after that that she did her best work.  My goal is not to try to live up to her legacy, but to be the best me I could be, and as I look at her life, I can see that it is OK to be just getting started... (although, I am pretty dang proud of the homeschooling journey I have already accomplished).


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