The late Dr. Maya Angelou is a woman I greatly admire, her wisdom has guided me since my freshman year of college. At a time when I was figuring out who I was and my sense of purpose in this life, she was there – at least through her words. I had the great honor to see her speak in person in the late 1990’s – her presence on that stage took my breath away. She was a force for truth, passion, love, the power of words – shaping many of my core beliefs through her infinite wisdom. I have read and listened to her books for 20+ years, her voice becoming a part of my voice and the person I am today.
I knew that she was the first African-American street car conductor in San Francisco. I viewed it as one of her many amazing accomplishments; which included being a dancer with the famous Alvin Ailey, a Civil Rights advocate alongside Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and best-selling poet and author, just to name a few. Yet, just the other day, I heard the full story of how she came to land the job as a street car conductor at the young age of 16. When she first applied, she was refused an application because of the color of her skin. That could have been the end of the story, but she – encouraged by her mother – went to the street car office every day, all day, sitting there for two weeks (enduring verbal abuse from the staff) until a supervisor ultimately decided to give her the job.
There is always more to the story. This persistence, in her case spurred on by the strength and courage of her mother, was just one of many times in her life Maya Angelou had to overcome difficulties. There are very rarely “overnight successes” – usually there are years of hard work that have led a person to that point. I share this not to discourage, but rather to encourage.
Take heart, is there something you really want? A vocation or interest that you feel called to?
Take steps towards it.
Move past fear and other people’s opinions.
To quote Maya Angelou, “Nothing will work unless you do.”
Do the work, be brave and persistent – believe in yourself.
I have found that dreams begin as a whisper, but at some point, grow louder. Perhaps they even become a roar. Listen. Begin the small steps. Push through the fear.
For Maya Angelou, it began with a street car and eventually led her to speak and teach all over the world. Where will your dream take you?