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I didn’t expect the news to affect me so much, but I feel like I’ve been down ever since I read the unthinkable.

On my way to my desk this morning at work, I saw one of my coworkers reading something with nothing more than her name at the top. I immediately felt this heavy, ominous feeling. I logged on, and Twitter repeated her name over and over again. I was so lost for words.

The day before, I was walking to the metro, working through another disappointment in another relationship that I was struggling to maintain, and the words “if someone shows you who they really are, believe them,” came to me, and comforted me. And when I said them, I felt like it was her saying them to me. I felt so alone, and it was like she was saying that’s okay.

And I feel like she’s been one of those people who’ve been saying that to me ever since I was introduced to her. I don’t claim to read a lot of her work, or know much about her, but her legacy gave me permission to be deep. To be introspective and to be different, and not to keep things light just because it would make people uncomfortable. And ultimately she made me feel okay to feel lonely sometimes–a lot of times–because being a deep thinker, a deep feeler, when it’s not popular, often means standing alone.

For some time now I’ve struggled with myself, back and forth, afraid to be real and true to myself at the risk of being alone in a crowd. It weighs on me so heavily when I get a sense of the desperation in some people’s eyes. In their voices. They don’t think anyone knows, or can see it. But I’m afraid to tell them that I see them, because then they’ll see me seeing all their vulnerability, and that might freak them out. I don’t want to be alone. No one wants to be alone and disconnected from everyone around them.

But nonetheless, Maya Angelou was one of those people who I didn’t even know, but connected with so much. And she died today. She’s a hero in my heart. She’s a hero for the heart. I hope she lives on forever in our memories. Amen.