By Samantha McKenzie
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.
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.
(Excerpts from Invictus, by William Ernest Henley)
I was introduced to the Invictus poem in junior high school. Something about being the master of my fate was attractive. As I began to move closer towards adulthood, however, those sentences quickly faded into the backdrop.
I became pacified by my traditions and allowed routines to placate my appetite for more. There was no evil boogie man, or monstrous figure in my life that got me off track. I simply forgot to make myself a priority. My dreams and ambitions began to collect dust in my memory. I perfected the art of helping others while simultaneously neglecting myself. I was a sell-out to my own soul. I convinced myself that I was better off fixing other people’s problems and would get around to dealing with Samantha later. Why not? She’d always be around.
One day, while in the grocery store, an old man turned to me in the dairy aisle and said, “You are a nice looking woman, probably a very good mother, but you aren’t happy.” After the shock wore off, I quickly tried to convince him otherwise. “I am just stressing out about an event I am preparing for later. But no, really, I am happy,” desperately trying hard to change his view. He shared with me that he had a gift. The power of discernment, he said matter-of-factly. “I read people very well.”
I never saw him again.
My path to re-learning how to be the captain of my ship started over. It was a slow process, but I stayed the course.
After 15 years of an unsuccessful marriage, I filed for a divorce. Next, I changed my career path, left my religious organization behind, invested 10+ sessions with a therapist and went back to earn a master’s degree. I quit a stressful job after 9 solid years without another in sight. I redefined friendships, made new networks, and forgave myself. I was on my way.
I discovered that I didn’t need anyone’s approval and adopted new patterns of behavior that balanced my life. I was on a fast track to freedom and it felt amazing!
I don’t know when it clicked, when the light bulb went off or when I finally realized that I didn’t need permission to BE anymore. There was no fanfare, no ticker tape parade nor applause. I’m not exactly sure who I thought would release me, forgive me, or even allow me to be heard. I just know on that day, that sweet, sweet glorious day, I awakened my soul.
I am the master of my fate and the captain of my soul.