Day 16 - A picture of someone who inspires you.
I have had the pleasure of attending 2 of Dr. Maya Angelou's speaking engagements in the '80's and 90's. I even had the privelage of meeting her face to face and shaking hands with her. At 6' tall she is an imposing figure, regal in stature and aura. She spoke to me briefly and I think my jaw was on the ground the whole time. I don't remember what I said to her but I doubt I made any coherent noises because I was so awe-struck. It was what I imagine meeting the Queen must be like for the Brits.
My love affair with Dr. Angelou started when I was 13 and I read her book I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings. It was the first time I really felt that I wasn't alone in my experiences. I remember crying, not exactly understanding why the tears were flowing. I had blocked out most of my childhood memories but I knew that something horrible lurked in those dark recesses of my mind, and reading that book was like shining a flashlight into those dark corners for a brief moment. Dr. Angelou's words resonated with me on a profound level. I knew, deep down inside, that she was telling my story. I had been sexually abused for years by someone close to my family and kept silent under threat of harm. He threatened that my parents wouldn't love me anymore, that they would leave me, and eventually he threatened my life and theirs. When I was 11 I was close to telling my fifth grade teacher but then my father left. He and my mother were getting a divorce. In my young mind it was all connected. I had decided to tell so I was being punished. I kept silent after all, not wanting the other shoe to drop. Even after I had told, years later, I still felt the looming threat, and to this day my first reaction to talking aloud about the abuse and standing up for myself is the feeling that something bad is going to happen. Most of the time I am able to brush it aside and tell myself that it is not true, but it lingers in the background. I still identify with Dr. Angelou's words, which have been an inspiration to me more than I can express. When I doubt myself and all that I can possibly be or do, I just look to her and think, my gods, if she could do it, so can I.