Monday, January 4, 2016

The Occasionally Random Quote Series of 2016, Maya Angelou


I know that the name of this series is odd, but it's my attempt to tell you all that while I may have grand ambitions for this series, I'm not committing to any number of quotes or a time frame. I'll write about them when I write about them. There's no particular theme going on, either. I'm just finding quotes that intrigue me, then musing about them here.

Here's a pretty graphic. If there is a quote you'd like me to discuss, please let me know! I'm always looking for suggestions. You can email me at or send me a message on my Facebook page.

This quote is one that I've found myself using from time to time, applying it as much to my personal life as anything else. It is by the amazing Maya Angelou, a woman who left this world with so many poignant words.

“I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better.” 
― Maya Angelou

This quote, to me, is about maturing and growing through the experiences in one's life. As we age, we inevitably are faced with situations we never imagined, with struggles we weren't prepared for. We are met with challenges, with loss, with boundless joy.

For me, this quote signals the maturity that comes with those experiences, the overarching lesson of those experiences, which is that when we learn better, we do better. Or, more correctly, we can do better.

We make mistakes. We all make mistakes. We should learn from them. Not everyone does.

We make assumptions about what we might do if we ever find ourselves in a given situation. We all do this. If and when we actually find ourselves there, though, we might learn that our responses are in fact quite different than we believed they would be. We thought we knew. We didn't. We should use experiences such as that to learn to stop making assumptions about situations we haven't experienced. We should. Not everyone does.

We make assumptions about other people, about their positions in life, about why they are there, about where responsibility should lie. If and when we were to find ourselves in a similar place, we might begin to understand how myopic our opinions were, how uneducated we were, how out of touch with reality we were. We might. Not everyone does.

In order to apply these lessons, we need to truly learn them rather than reject them or justify this particular set of circumstances, twist the narrative to somehow fit into what we believed prior. We need to unlearn what we thought we knew. We need to admit we were wrong.

When we learn better, we do better.

At this point in my life, I look back on things I have done, things I have said, choices I made and I know with absolutely certainly that if I had the chance to do it over, I would do things differently. 

I have been selfish and impulsive and judgmental. I have been unaware of my own privileges in this world. I have been short sighted and ignorant about any perspective other than my own, which was necessarily limited by my limited life experiences up to that point.

Now, though....I have seen things you guys. So many things. I've lived a few lifetimes just in the past couple of years. I've learned how little I really knew about life, about how little I knew about myself really. 

Of course, I also thought I knew myself pretty well back then.

I just happened to be wrong.

Now, I go out of my way to try and understand. I fight the urge to judge others with every ounce in my being. I push away assumptions. I trust people when they tell me their stories. I don't insist that my own experiences should have any relevance for anyone else. 

I also know that I still have a lot of work to do.

I need to keep learning better, so that I can keep doing better.

I challenge you all to do the same.

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