The death of Marguerite Johnson, better known as Dr. Maya Angelou has me thinking a lot about life. As I read through my timeline on facebook and glanced through Twitter and Instagram over and over there was a resounding theme concerning Dr. Angelou. She left a legacy that can not be denied.
Many of us may never have Oprah as a bestie or write best-selling books. Many may never grace the presence of Presidents or have Pulitzer nominations. Many will never produce poems that set the spirits of girls and women in motion. More than 30 healthcare facilities and dozens of doctoral degrees may never bear our names, BUT our name matters.
What will we leave behind? Will we set our sights on making memories or will our sole focus be making money? Will we leave a legacy of having lasting friendships or will do our actions and attitude tell others that ships are meant to sail solo? Will we teach those behind us how to have healthy communication or will cursing, “reading”, gossiping and shutting people out be what we offer to those watching? Will we teach young girls how to be ladies or will we struggle to embrace our own innate, undeniable, “you’ve got it whether you want it or not” beauty, regality and grace? Will we show young boys how to grow to become men who know how to treat women or will we fall victim to some of the rap and the stats? Will we be generous with our wisdom or will we hoard it like it has use in Heaven?
What we leave behind doesn’t start when we’re buried. It started when we were born. The older we get the closer to the grave we all go. That’s a fact of life. To me, Dr. Angelou’s life showed the importance of, and ability to be successful, relevant and still connected. She showed us how to be a good friend, a respected leader, a wise woman, a transformed and transforming agent, and a wordsmith. Her legacy teaches us that it’s okay, no, not just okay, but our obligation to be sassy and bold, caring and sensitive, helpful and true to our convictions, transparent and courageous, eloquent and elegant, and unique in our own skin.
Dr. Angelou has done her part in showing us how to do our part. There are men, women, boys and girls who are literally waiting on our words, our actions, our kind deeds, correction and direction to change their lives. Now the rest lies with us. What will we leave behind?
Recently, I was surprised to learn of an associate who was offered another job. It wasn’t the fact that this individual was leaving a company with which a long, rewarding career had been granted. What shocked me is the fact that, after making mention to the direct supervisor, this associate embarked on a quest to share this news personally, and first, with a few key people who had been instrumental in helping along the way. I thought that was honorable, respectable and most importantly smart. You see, while this person’s focus was certainly on the new journey about to be embarked upon, there was also a keen awareness of the importance of tidying up things presently before fast-forwarding to the future. I made a mental note when I heard of it to do better at learning how to leave.
Leaving can be so hard to do. Whether it’s going from one job, church, school or group to the next, ending a relationship or transitioning a friendship, leaving can bring about as much fear, anxiety or questions for the person wanting to leave as the person being left. The thought of leaving and having to have that dreaded talk, even if you’re already half-way out of the door, can cause a stomach to do Olympic-worthy somersaults. Still, honorable and respectable conversation regarding a departure is needed and very necessary for all parties involved.
Thinking again on the associate who took great steps to leave a job in a proper way, I think back to the times where I’ve burned bridges, or have been the one burned. I also think back to the times where the bridges I might have scorched or chosen to handle the right way reappeared later in life. I certainly think of the times I’ve been burned only to reappear in the lives of the “flame throwers” later. Needless to say, there are lessons learned from both sides of the bridge.
How to Leave:
- Make sure you’re making the right move. Don’t let anger, “the whispering committee” or misunderstandings cause you to make an unwise, and hasty decision.
- Let people know. Never leave a situation whether it be a business, relationship, association or organization without informing those involved who need, and deserve to know. People ought to know you’re gone. They should know it firsthand from you.
- Don’t let people know. In relationships, please inform the other party directly involved before involving or becoming involved with other parties. When it comes to jobs or organizations, always let those in leadership or authority know you’re leaving first before co-workers and comrades.
- Be professional. Write a letter or have a face-to-face or verbal conversation, but do not use social media or text messages as the method to say “I quit you” or “I’m on to the next one”.
- Complete the assignment. Never leave a job undone. Handle your business.
- Take out the garbage. Deal with any unhealthy emotions you have from one person, place or thing before you go on to a nother person, place or thing so that you don’t take those damaging sentiments with you.
- Leave the light on. Always leave in a manner that assures you that you’ve left in such a way that you can return.
- Be respectful. If they were good enough to share some part of your life leave it at that. Don’t go on a trash talking free-for-all after the association ends.
- End with a bang. If you know you’re going to go let your last impressions be your best.
- Make it better. Make a concerted effort to leave jobs, organizations, things and people better than before you. Yes, I know that can be hard to do, especially if you feel they wronged you, but trust me, it pays off in the end.
If you’re like me there have been times where your perception of people has failed miserably. Whether through friendships, business partnerships or other relationships, let’s just be honest, sometimes our heart can get ahead of our head and cause us to forget the importance of character among our circle of associations. A person’s character is those key attributes and features that make them who they are. Character counts, and if displayed properly from our associations it can truly add to your life. The flip side of that is character counts, and if displayed improperly from our associations it can cost you.
As painful as it is to say, and hear, there may be times where we’ve judged people incorrectly. That happens, both good and bad. The good news is that we can live through it and learn from it. But through watchful eyes, unbiased observation and a spirit of discernment…
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