The single most influential writer in my life has been Maya Angelou. In many ways she is the reason why I am who I am today. Reading her autobiography gave me the freedom to believe that I can be whoever I want to be, I can excel in any area of life that I choose to focus on, and I can do all that whilst having a good time. I remember clearly the first book of hers that I read, All God’s Children Need Travelling Shoes. I was living in London at the time and would regularly browse through the ‘black books’ section at bookstores looking for a book to grab my attention. On that particular day, her book grabbed my attention. I read the blurb and flipped through the pages. I was curious. I could see my country Ghana reflected. I bought the book and read it in a day. At the time, that was the 5th book in her series of autobiographies. I went back to the bookshop and bought every other book of Maya’s. I became even more inspired. She was a visionary woman of many talents. A writer, poet, revolutionary, dancer, actress, chef, professor…

Many things about Maya Angelou’s life made an impression on me. I remember reading about her going to bars as a single woman, buying a drink and always making sure to leave a generous tip for the bartender. That’s something that has stayed with me. Maya loved freely and passionately yet was not scared to walk away from a relationship that no longer met her needs. That’s another lesson that has stayed with me. Maya was self-taught. Growing up in the racist South of America she didn’t have the privileges that many of us take for granted, yet she didn’t let any obstacle hold her back. I remember that ahead of one particular job interview she had, she went to the library and thoroughly researched the area she was seeking to work in, even though it was a field she had no prior knowledge of. That’s a lesson that has always stayed with me.

One of my life goal’s was to meet Maya Angelou. I am saddened that I won’t be able to do that here on Earth, yet I am comforted by the fact that she lived a full life, and in the knowledge that she documented her stories for all of us to benefit from.