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Taking Flight

Learning to Soar Despite Adversity

When I was seven, I remember walking with my older sister to take out the trash. On our way to the dumpsters we heard something moving in the bushes. We peeked in and saw a bird. As we observed the cockatiel, we noticed he was injured and bleeding. One of his wings had been clipped (in a very inhumane way). He hobbled out of the bush hissing and pecking as we tried to pick him up. My sister took off her Adidas sandal and held it out like a raft. He hopped on and clung tight. We named him Lucky.

For the first several weeks, Lucky hissed at us any time we came too close. In fact he tried to bite us any time we replaced his fresh water or cleaned his cage. But week after week, Lucky began to whistle and eventually liked coming out of his cage. Several months after his rescue, Lucky trusted us and we trusted him. 

A year later, my sister decided to place Lucky on her shoulder while she took out the trash. She had done this several times before and Lucky always stayed put. But on this day, Lucky decided to fly. He pumped his wings, he took flight and he soared. Several hours later we spotted Lucky above our second story apartment window. It was as if he was saying, “I learned I can fly and it’s really fun but can I come back in and eat?”

My stepdad climbed the tall branchless tree in his business suit while the neighborhood kids watched him in awe. He placed Lucky in his suit jacket and we brought him home. Lucky never made it outside again but after discovering his wings grew back, we gave him flight time each afternoon. My sweet cockatiel, Lucky, lived well into his teen years and passed away knowing what love, care and freedom feel like.

Like Lucky, our wings can be clipped before we ever take flight. But as I learned with Lucky and in my own experiences our wings grow back with greater resilience and purpose.  

" If you are lucky enough to never experience any sort of adversity, we won’t know how resilient you are. It’s only when you’re faced with obstacles, stress, and other environmental threats that resilience, or the lack of it, emerges: Do you succumb or do you surmount?"

-Maria Konnikova, The New Yorker

The men and women I admire most experienced adversity. Maya Angelou, Oprah Winfrey and Tony Robbins are incredible examples of those that not only conquered trials in their early childhood but used it to better their life and the lives around them.

Angelou was mute for five years after surviving traumatic sexual abuse at the age of seven. Maya's grandmother would comb her hair at night and remind her of the great poet she was. Each evening, she told Maya that if she decided to speak again, she would be the greatest writer, teacher and poet. Not only did she begin to speak again, Angelou became a celebrated poet, memoirist, educator, dramatist, producer, actress, historian, filmmaker, and civil rights activist. Dr. Maya Angelou had over 50 honorary doctorate degrees before she passed away in 2014. Her legacy lives on forever.

Listen to Maya Angelou's poem, And Still I Rise. May it encourage you to take flight!

Resources:

The Secret Formula of Resilience by Maria Konnikova, The New Yorker

And Still I Rise, Maya Angelou, American Masters, PBS Special

(Available on Netflix)

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