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I heard this poem for the first time 28 years ago.
I was 11 years old, sitting in my living room watching “Poetic Justice,” Maya Angelou‘s words filling the air.
This week, I found myself repeating two lines from this poem over and over in my head. They seemed to pop into my mind randomly—or so I thought—but then they wouldn’t leave.
“Nobody, but nobody
Can make it out here alone…”
The past few weeks have been emotionally draining. I’ve felt off-center, thrown off my routine, stumbling. It seemed like the more I longed for security, the more my life felt uncertain, upside down.
My initial instinct when I feel like this is usually to go inward, to try and figure things out on my own or white-knuckle it until the tide turns. Sometimes, that works. But this time, not so much.
And so, I turned to my people, my support system—the ones who keep me centered and build me up and give it to me straight while also giving me room to breathe and process, without judgment.
I know there are people who walk through life fully committed to the independent, every-man-is-an-island, asking-for-help-is-for-the-weak mentality. The idea that everything they’ve achieved is solely because of who they are as people: their hard work, their talent, their consistency, their struggle. And for some, that may be true.
But what’s true for me, and probably for most people, is that while my hard work and talent and consistency and struggle has played a huge role in who I am today and what I’ve achieved, I also know that I’ve been surrounded by people who have walked with me on this journey, people who gave me opportunities and supported me and pushed me and helped me see parts of myself (good and bad) that my eyes were once closed to.
People who accompanied me on my path and people who forced me to choose a different one. People who opened doors for me and people who closed doors in my face. People who taught me what love is and people who taught me what love is not.
Whether we have a solid support group or we’re operating solo, there is no way that any of us can make it through our lives without having an influence on someone else. As Ram Dass said, “We’re all just walking each other home.”
So, when you have one of those days when you’re struggling, when you’re trying to do it all by yourself, when you’re longing for connection, read this Maya Angelou poem and know that you’re not alone:
How to find my soul a home
Where water is not thirsty
And bread loaf is not stone
I came up with one thing
And I don’t believe I’m wrong
Can make it out here alone.
Alone, all alone
Nobody, but nobody
Can make it out here alone…
Now if you listen closely
I’ll tell you what I know
Storm clouds are gathering
The wind is gonna blow
The race of man is suffering
And I can hear the moan,
Can make it out here alone.”