“I am the master of my fate; I am the captain of my soul.” When I first stumbled upon this quote by William Ernest Henley, it seemed as if, ironically, some higher power had guided me to it. Regardless of how or from whom it came to me, it did so when I needed it most. The few seconds it took me to read a simple line completely revamped a lifetime’s worth of seemingly unbreakable apathy.
The majority of my life had been a tremulous and precarious one. It reflected my family, which was split into fragments, which were then flung to different corners of the earth. However, despite our lack of physical unity, I believed in my mind that our familial bonds were our strongest point, our core. The rest of the unit had different plans in mind. In one night, my haloes of naivety and security had been throttled by clouds of shock and anguish.
Thus was my mental and emotional plight as I entered high school. As time passed, my emotions simmered to a mixture of constant depression and resentment. The first two years slithered by in an ungodly blur of fleeting, evanescent escapes. It was in my junior year, as I braced myself for another eternity of depression, that my father sent me a Korean novel containing William E. Henley’s quote. I was dumbfounded. How could I have known that I would find solace in a few scraps of paper and ink, when I had so desperately searched in countless complex drugs, pains, and distorted pleasures?
Yet it was also different from the other releases. Instead of fading away, the ink burned brighter into the retinas of my heart. “I am the master of my own fate.” The words struck deep gongs in my soul. And just like that, I shook the strings off my back, picked them up in my hands, and assumed the role of puppeteer. “I am the captain of my soul.” The words tapped tinkling chimes in my mind. And just like that, I was shouting orders to my seafaring crew, telling them we were headed back home. I resolved to boldly come forward and grapple with the world, instead of letting my situation consume me in bitter lassitude. I had regained my equilibrium.
The change was slow but unwavering. I pulled my grades past the dangerous depths of failure, past C level, and up into the lofty regions of A’s and B’s. I remembered that I still had friends, and that they had not abandoned me, but were waiting for me. And cautiously, tentatively, I started to love once more. I was not yet a complete convert, but I wasn’t the former withered husk that happened to have a human shape, either.
Henley’s quote came to me during my darkest hour. Though it was but a tiny island of light in the midst of a turbulent sea of despair, it gave me a foothold from which I could see the shore. During those trials of hardship, if I had left nature to its own devices, I would have inevitably slipped and drowned. But nothing gives me more satisfaction than the knowledge that I had taken my life into my hands, and swam to safety.
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