The Education of Intern Sara: Self Reflection Maya Angelou & Rereading Old Favorites
I feel fortunate to have experienced many of life’s joys and privileges and yet I still want more. Enter reading. Reading is that gift that the world has offered us that allows us to fill in those gaps and allows us to experience things that we wouldn’t experience otherwise. We are able to see places, learn things, and react to moments that weren’t meant for us. Maya Angelou’s life was exceptional, beyond what most of us will ever experience, and although I’m glad that I haven’t experienced her pain, there’s something to be said for being able to take that journey with her.
I read Maya Angelou’s first book, “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” in my late teens and was completely captivated by her words and her story. Decades later, I can still see many of the images she painted in my mind as if they were my own. Some of her memories are full of heart and charm while others are haunting and painful, but all are vivid and will forever live alongside my own memories.
I was heartbroken, last month when I heard that she had passed away. I also felt a little guilty. Before I ever finished her reading her first book, I knew I wanted to read it again. I felt that way about all of her books and had promised myself I would at the very least reread “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” and “Singin’ and Swingin’ and Gettin’ Merry like Christmas” because they were my favorites. At several points every year, I tell myself I will do it. I used to own all of Maya’s autobiographies and in my desire to share her words with others, I lent them out never to see them again. I wondered if I should repurchase them or borrow them from the library. Should I get paperback or hardcover? Should it be a hard-copy or digital?” Decades had passed and I was still asking myself those questions. I had yet to reread either book.
Within days of Maya Angelou’s passing, I decided I just needed to go to the library and get them. “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” was waiting for me on the shelf. The library gods had decided that I should start at the beginning and as soon as I got home, I started rereading.
Her words were as beautiful as I remembered but in spite of this, I knew that I wasn’t going to finish reading her book. I only read five chapters and then put it down. I may not remember everything, but I know that a lot of terrible things happened to her as a child and I wasn’t ready to re-experience that. I put the book down and haven’t picked it up since. I’m not sure that I will, at least not for a while.
I guess as much as I love this book, and as much as I’d like to read it again, there is something inside me that knows that I’m not ready yet. It is more powerful than I am and I need to respect that. Maya Angelou and her caged bird will have to wait. Perhaps I will have better luck singin’ and swingin’ with her, only time will tell.
I may not have reread Maya Angelou yet, but I did make good on two other promises. There are four books that I count as my favorites. In addition to Maya Angelou’s autobiographies are Mick Fleetwood’s, “My Life and Adventures in Fleetwood Mac” and Dolly Parton’s, “My Life and Other Unfinished Business.” I made good on my promise and reread them both, one after the other.
Are they still great books? Absolutely. Are they still my favorites? I’m not sure. I experienced them so differently this time. They were wonderful, but there was nothing shocking or new about them. These were stories that I had read before. Perhaps that’s why I was afraid of rereading them and perhaps that’s why it took me over two decades to do so. It’s only new the first time and two decades of life experiences will alter your opinion about things.
Perhaps when I reread Maya, hers will no longer be my favorite books either. Who knows? I just know that I am not ready to find out. Perhaps I’m meant to discover new favorites or perhaps this is my time to just write.
Here’s to making time for writing, making time for reading, and finding new favorites.