French-Cuban writer Anaïs Nin is known for her poignant, intimate personal diaries, which often read like novels, detailing the depth of her affection for various friends and lovers, and her sensitivity to the workings of the world around her. This quote is from an entry in September 1939: World War II had just begun, and Nin discovered that a close friend had enlisted in the French army. Even faced with the potential loss of a loved one, she relinquishes control, committing to love without conditions. Nin’s words remind us that often, the best thing we can do for the people close to us is simply to love them, without trying to manage or change them.
One does not get better but different and older and that is always a pleasure.
Now a legend of American literature, known for mentoring young sensations such as F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway as part of her Paris Salon, author Gertrude Stein was well into her thirties when she first published her work. Stein’s writing style became more experimental as she grew older, shunning the linear plot conventions of the time for more sprawling, reflective writing. Her words here remind us that though getting older is often disparaged, it offers us valuable experience and wisdom that inspire us to change as people — and that’s something to be grateful for.
The only thing people regret is that they didn’t live boldly enough, that they didn’t invest enough heart, didn’t love enough.
English poet Ted Hughes is best known for his stark, no-frills writing on the natural world, which explores the inherent wild nature of both animals and humans. Hughes wrote numerous poetry collections and children’s books and is also remembered as the husband of the renowned writer Sylvia Plath. Hughes’ words here remind us that taking risks is an essential part of living. With every chance we take, we make ourselves vulnerable to failure and hurt. But at the end of the day, we’re more likely to regret a life lived too cautiously to be enjoyed fully.
If the shoe doesn’t fit, must we change the foot?
Never afraid to speak truth to power, feminist activist and journalist Gloria Steinem called out the harmful, outdated systems of American society when she asked this question in her 1983 book, “Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions.” Steinem argued that the country’s prejudiced policies and sexist culture often failed to protect its people, and that instead of trying to change each individual to fit the mold, the system itself needed a radical transformation. Like so much of her pioneering work in the 20th century, her words remain relevant to this day.\
Activist Angela Davis has advocated for civil rights, and particularly for the Black and incarcerated communities, since the late 1960s. She has written and spoken extensively on the flaws of the American criminal justice system, which she experienced firsthand after being arrested on conspiracy charges and then acquitted in the early 1970s. The words above appear in the chapter of Davis’ autobiography detailing her trial, and they apply not only to the literal walls of incarceration, but also to the figurative walls we face in our lives. Davis reminds us that every problem has more than one solution: By changing our perspective, something that appears as a roadblock may actually provide a path forward.
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