Four Lessons I Learned from Pearl Cleage’s “Things I Should Have Told My Daughter"

by Amber Wright

When I read Pearl Cleage’s memoir, “Things I Should Have Told My Daughter: Lies, Lessons & Love Affairs,” I expected to learn more about the life of an author I’ve long loved and respected. What I didn’t expect was to so readily identify with her journey as a woman, wife, mother, and writer. The complexities of womanhood are left eloquently on display through each of her journal entries that are published in the book. I saw myself in so many of her words and experiences, and I found her to be all the more inspiring as a result. I am so glad she made the brave choice to share these things with her daughter and her new daughters like me, with the world. These are my five greatest nuggets of wisdom I away from her memoir.

Accept your calling
To be a writer was something Pearl was called to do and she recognized that. Writing wasn’t merely a profession for her or something she enjoyed doing; it was something she had to do. I loved that she walked in her calling, even if only writing in her journal at times for most, if not all of her life. She confronted many highs and lows as a writer, but when it’s something you love to do, it’s impossible to give it up. She set an example for me to continue walking in my purpose and calling.

Tell your truth
There is something magical that happens when we tell our own truths. I have learned that as a blogger and writer over the years. Not only do we free ourselves from the opinions of others when we tell and stand in our own truths, we have the power to help free others as well. The bravery it took Pearl to share her most private thoughts, fears, insecurities, and dreams with readers truly resonated with me. It has encouraged me to continue sharing my personal stories of trial and triumph as a way to inspire other women.

Document your life
Not long after the book launched, I got the chance to listen to Ms. Cleage speak at a book reading/signing. In discussing why she chose to write her memoir in this way with releasing her journal entries, she said that she feels we all should look at ourselves as historical figures. Every one of us has a unique story that should be documented as it unfolds. It’s part of building a legacy for those that come after us. I hadn’t looked at my life that way before, and it made perfect sense. Becoming a writer has brought me so many new friendships, connections, and opportunities – all through sharing my story and life. I’m grateful for that and for being able to see how much I’ve grown via my past and present blogs.

Do things that fuel your creativity
As I turned the pages of “Things I Should Have Told My Daughter…” one thing that I appreciated about Pearl’s life is that she did things that fueled her creativity. She was well travelled, studied and appreciated art, and soaked up good, soul-stirring music. Many creatives find themselves most inspired to create their own works of art by art (and life) itself. I was reminded to get out, see the world and find things that ignite my imagination. Pursuing rich experiences will definitely be reflected in my work.

Nurture your identities outside of being a mother
Pearl truly is every woman. I read, intrigued, as she navigated through her varying roles as a woman, wife, mother, professional, and writer. I carry all of those same roles and could readily identify with so much of what she was experiencing as a first time mom and career woman. I appreciated her effort to maintain a sense of self throughout all of her life experiences. She celebrated her individuality, her sexuality, and did things that made her happy – all without apology. That was encouraging to me as I make an effort to do the same.

Clearly, I enjoyed this book and I highly recommend it. I think it’s important that we take the time to listen to those who have gone before us and soak up their wisdom. Reading “Things I Should Have Told My Daughter: Lies, Lessons & Love Affairs” is an opportunity to drink from the well of wisdom that is Pearl Cleage.

Amber L. Wright, M.A.  is an adjunct professor, writer, communication coach and creator of Her personal mission is to teach you how to hear and be heard in every area of your life - from the boardroom to the bedroom. Wright’s areas of interest and expertise are in communication, relationships, marriage and popular culture.

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