I learned a poem in college under circumstances I’d rather not repeat. While, at the time, memorizing anything on top of my overfilled course load was beyond anything I’d hoped to do, I have to acknowledge the role this wisdom has played in my life. In the darkest of times, I often forgot what resilience and determination meant. While I’d grown up with these characteristics woven deeply throughout my own story, I’d failed to actually identify them as the properties I exhibited at each turn of life’s path. With the verbal repetition of Invictus (William Ernest Henley) through some of the darkest days, I not only realized my own strength through the verbalization of the process, but I also took control of that process, rather than muddling through it.
Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloodied, but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate,
I am the captain of my soul.
I went from being angry at this greater circumstance, from being hurt by each infliction of difference, to being determined not only to muster through it, but to change it. To this day, I remember that this determination is innate, even when we haven’t learned how to tap into it. The mastery comes with learning to focus your gut– your resilience and determination, your grit– to boost you rather than diminish your efforts.
What shook your mindset, encouraged you to press on, or shifted the way you look at the world?