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It was Maya Angelou who said that each of us has been paid for by those who came before us,

It was Maya Angelou who said that each of us has been paid for by those who came before us, and so therefore it is our duty to pay for those who are yet to come.

Think about it: Every chance and opportunity you have ever been offered has only been available because somebody, somewhere, at some point in time, fought for your freedom. “Each of you,” Angelou wrote, “Black, White, Brown, Yellow, Red—whatever pigment you use to describe yourselves—has been paid for.”

For that reason alone, wouldn’t it be a shame if you were to go through your whole life having never maximized every opportunity? Having never fully known what you could have been, because you were too lazy or too broke or too absorbed in your own justifications for not being able to take the leap?

You Have Been Paid For - Pay It Forward

You Have Been Paid For

Suddenly, all of my ancestors are behind me. ‘Be still,’ they say. ‘Watch and listen. You are the result of the love of thousands.’

– Linda Hogan

Realize now that choosing to live out the life of your dreams is so much bigger than simply satisfying yourself. You are also satisfying your father who sacrificed his chance at a good education so you could have yours; your mother who worked tirelessly so you could grow up never knowing the struggles she knew all too well; your grandmothers and grandfathers; your ancestors of centuries ago who could only dream of the privileges and opportunities present in your life today.

Following your dreams is perhaps the most selfless act there is. Because everyone knows that when you truly follow your heart, it riddles your life with uncertainty. There is always a voice in the back of your head telling you that if you get too complacent you could fail; that you should give up early while you’re still on top; that it would be in your best interest to just accept and move on from whatever little success you had and pursue the safer option from now on.

But it takes a deeper, instinctual awareness to persist despite hardship. An awareness that you have been paid for – that you have been paid for in the form of the clothes on your back and the food in your fridge, the room you have been allowed to rent and the bed you get to rest your head in every night.

Perhaps you believe in something bigger than yourself that has paid for you: the Universe, or God, or Allah, or Buddha, all of the above or none of the above. Whatever you believe, we are each balls of star energy walking around on a rock floating in space… It is difficult to accept that our existence here is anything but magic.

So whenever I read a story of someone who committed suicide or gave up on their dream or died too young, or all three, I always affirm to myself: “I’m taking that person with me. I’m taking that person with me the next time I get on a stage, or do a job interview, or have anything to do that requires great courage.”

I’m bringing them with me. Because they deserve to be honored. Because they remind me that I’m doing what I do not just for selfish purposes; that I’m also doing it for everyone who for whatever reason couldn’t make it this far. Who saw no escape, who saw no light.

I want to be that light.

Because we have each been paid for on this planet, and it is our duty to live out the dreams of others who saw no possibility to live them themselves.

Remind yourself of this fact and you will never question your conviction towards the things that set your soul on fire.

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