Maya Angelou and My Blue Room
By Pia Camilla Harden
M y blue room was my safe haven from the rest of the hell-house of repressed or extremely expressed emotions. We had moved to a smaller house after my sister left home and my father retired. My father told me that I could choose anything I wanted in my new room, the carpet, the wallpaper and the furniture. I was thrilled.
My wallpaper had a light sky blue background and white clouds printed on top of it. It really made me feel at ease when I was lying on my white bed looking at the ceilings surrounded by clouds, contemplating life and how to escape. I chose blue wall-to wall carpet that felt and looked like silk and was so comforting to my bare feet and my hands when stroking it. Blue, blue, blue - a color to keep me balanced and calm.
It was here in my blue room that I spent an amazing amount of time with my heroes and role models. I needed them desperately. Since I found it very hard at the age of seven to survive in life, at home, with so many fights between my parents and endless rage from my father when he was drinking. Surviving outside of the family with friends and other people had not become trouble yet. That would come later.
It was here in my blue room that I found enormous comfort from my heroes and the characters of my books.
In the middle of my room I had placed a small multi purpose table where I stuck my records. Rod Stewart was on the top of my list of favorites when I was around eleven years old. In the left corner of my room, my father had built a white walk-in closet where I kept my clothes but also my secret belongings like my diary. My white, repainted frail looking desk, a white chair, and a white book shelf filled with books.
White, white, white for cleanliness.
One of my favorite characters who helped me through the most was a girl named Kitty, she was a detective and solved a lot of mysteries. Kitty was smart and courageous and I borrowed a lot of her characteristics for my outer face in the world. Then there was a book series and a girl character called “Jolly” who was absolutely hilarious and sooo clumsy in both what she said and did. Jolly made me laugh so hard and the laughter brought me great healing. Anne Fables was another role model for me. When Anne dyed her hair green, she was fabulous. Of course all the books that Astrid Lindgren wrote about Pippi Longstocking were wonderful. She was a huge hero and somebody I could relate to. She was lonely but full of spunk.
One day at the school’s library when I was twelve I discovered the most amazing role model of my life. I found a book called, “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” by Maya Angelou. I didn’t know of her before that but when I started to read about her life that day, I felt I had found a friend.
I needed someone to hold onto when things got really rough as they often did in my home, and Maya Angelou became my anchor, the one role model for me and she has been ever since. Today, twenty-eight years later, she still feels like a life long friend of mine.
I related to the loneliness she went through as a person. I always seemed to be popular and happy out there in public, but the truth was I was so burdened by sadness from not having anybody to turn towards. The inferiority that she felt I related to as well. I felt inferior to everybody because everybody in my eyes seemed to have loving, supportive families and not a mother that called them a whore at age twelve like my mother did.
Things did get bad outside my family as well. At age sixteen I was raped by my sister’s boyfriend and couldn’t turn to anybody. I found my strength in Maya Angelou who had been raped at age eight and she survived it. After reading her book I moved onto her poems and found great strength in the poem, “Phenomenal Woman”. I memorized the poem and found when my mind got weak, I quietly told it to myself. I am deeply grateful to this woman and wonder – does Maya Angelou have any idea that in so many ways she saved a little girl from a village of twenty- eight people in the South of Sweden from getting into trouble? She gave me such strength because of her own strength and triumph.
I have spent a lot of time since my blue room pulling support and strength from characters in books, lyrics in music, characters in movies and real people. Oprah Winfrey became my second solid role model about 18 years ago. In times of depression and loneliness Oprah pulled me through days of despair just by switching on the TV at exactly 4 o’clock US Eastern time and having her in my living room. There is always some sort of message on her shows that help a person to go on, to persevere. I wonder if she knows that?
Does Jamie Fox know that when he was on Oprah talking about his grandmother and his life story that it sparked a light in me giving my dreams another go after almost giving up on them? Does Jamie Fox know that I am now tasting and almost fully living my dreams because of him and his words? Does Felicia Rashad know that I sometimes tried to imitate her gracefulness (not always so successfully) and because of her I see what I think gracefulness looks like? Does Maya Angelou, Oprah Winfrey, Jamie Fox and Felicia Rashad know that a young woman that once laid in her blue room contemplating escaping this life went on to live and thrive because she listened to their strength? Do they know that they all gave me opportunities by showing alternative ways to live this life.
Do they know? Do they know? Do they know?
Perhaps not, of course not. Yet I am deeply forever grateful to their generosity of giving so bravely of themselves so people like me can benefit from their experiences and wisdom. My gratitude goes to all the writers of the world that have good intentions when they sit down to write and share their experiences in hope of making this world a better place for somebody else.
At fifteen I left my beautiful, blue room for good memories both good and bad. I decided to get out of there and become a “phenomenal woman” and that is what I am.