Towards the end of I know why the caged bird sings, the protagonist says,
“To be left alone on the tightrope of youthful unknowing is to experience the excruciating beauty of full freedom and the threat of eternal indecision. “
I never perceived my teenage years as full of freedom, even though I was relatively free: I was too busy being anxious and depressed. My sister surprised me once by using the expression “Infinite opportunity” , when everything still has to happen, to talk about late teens.
As for Marguerite Johnson, Maya Angelou’s alter ego, it is what she says after that I feel to be completely mine:
Few, if any, survive their teens. Most surrender to the vague but murderous pressure of adult conformity. It becomes easier to die and avoid conflict than to maintain a constant battle with the superior forces of maturity.”
This is exactly how I see it: almost everyone seems to think that life must be dull, that adulthood (maturity, the dreaded word) means accepring that no fire shall ever burn in your heart again, that you must become grey. It was a joy to find this thought – that it must not be like that – in a book I have loved, but which was written by an author so completely distant from who I am.
Never surrender to the grey meanies.