Invictus

invictusOne of my favorite poems is Invictus by William Ernest Henley. The story behind the poem is also impressive: Henley contracted tuberculosis of the bone when he was 13. At age 17, physicians had to amputate one of his legs.

Yet he wrote that:

“In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.”

We often say (or think) that life’s not fair, that life’s complicated. We always seem to spend more time dreaming than trying to achieve those dreams. But the thing is that life’s pretty simple: you live or you survive, and either way you’ll die.

And it’s entirely up to you.

But it’s so damn hard to live, especially in this modern age, when everything is moving so fast. It’s so easy to put your life on auto-pilot, to do the same things over and over again, to keep your head bowed.

Pain exists. And you’ll experience pain whether you want to or not. You’ll suffer, you’ll cry, and most of those things that don’t kill will make you wish they did.

But there’s freedom and clarity to be found in even the most desperate of situations. And more power than you can ever imagine.

A couple of years ago I realized I was just surviving. All I wanted was to have enough money to buy cigarettes and a bottle of Coca Cola. I perfected the art of eating once a day. I had these terrible headaches… and the funny thing about pain is that even if it doesn’t go away, in time you simply don’t care anymore.

You add a few health issues, you take away friends, and there you have it: the perfect recipe for disaster.

I spent most of the day feeling empty and stupid. Hours were reduced to seconds, and the world seemed to be going on without me. Strange feeling… to feel as if you’re been left behind by 7 billion people. You stare in the mirror and see a stranger. And, still, you can’t help yourself… you want to survive. It’s this stupid reflex that’s telling you that you have too much to lose if you give up. “You still have your life,” this voice inside your head tells you. “You still have a heartbeat.”

But during the nights I wrote. Simple as that. I wasn’t really expecting to publish anything. Sometimes I didn’t even have enough courage to dream about becoming published.

You know what’s so special about art? That, above all, you have to believe in yourself. You’re free to do anything you want, as long as you believe you can. It’s freedom that can’t be explained or defined, but only felt.

I began writing because I wanted to change the world. I wanted to be great. I wanted to make so much noise that people would never forget me. And when I lost almost everything except a weak heartbeat, this crazy ambition kept me alive. I had something to fight for.

When I decided to give self-publishing another try, when I decided to blog about stuff, I also decided that I would never give up, no matter what. I had reached a point few people ever reach: I could die or go up. So I decided to go up.

Of course, “never give up” is easier said than done. It’s infinitely easier to write the story than to live it. It’s also quite easy to read the words and discard them as nonsense.

But remember: your life is your own. And don’t be afraid. No one’s trying to kill your dreams. They’re too busy trying to make theirs come true.

No matter who you are or what you have or do, sometimes you’ll feel as if life’s not fair. You’ll find yourself thinking that the life you want is beyond your reach. So you might want to tell yourself, over and over again, as loud as you can:

“I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.”

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4 thoughts on “Invictus

  1. Someone once told me, “Not everyone likes strawberries.” Which means there is nothing wrong with strawberries, but that they aren’t for everyone. What we do as artists will never resonate with everyone, and we can’t accept that as failure, because it is not. What we have to do is plug away to find the people it does. I applaud you for continuing to plug away, that’s where success lies.

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