Invictus

invictus

One 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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15 thoughts on “Invictus

  1. Very inspiring! Thanks for this post.

    I like the part where you said that people are not trying to kill your dreams – they are just too busy making theirs come true. It’s an eye opener.

    Thanks for this post.

    Have a nice day.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Those final two lines are some of the most powerful in the English language. It is ultimately up to each of us to decide whether to push on and thrive or succumb to the demons we’ve created within ourselves. “I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul.” ✍️

    Nelson Mandela was known to recite the poem to other inmates while he was incarcerated at Robben Island prison under the apartheid regime in South Africa; he was imprisoned for a total of 27 years between three prisons and this poem was a source of empowerment for Mandela. The film about the 1995 Rugby World Cup, hosted by South Africa just after apartheid fell, and directed by Clint Eastwood was named “Invictus” because of this poem and its importance to Mandela. (At the time, rugby was seen in South Africa as a microcosm of racial divisiveness because rugby was considered a white man’s upper-class sport, and most of the Springboks national squad at that Rugby World Cup were white.) Mandela and Springboks captain François Pienaar decided to use the Rugby World Cup as an opportunity to help a long-divided South Africa begin to heal from the wounds of apartheid.

    To know that this poem was a source of empowerment and inspiration for a man like Nelson Mandela, regarded as one of the greatest human beings to ever walk this planet, makes it that much more incredible. (I’d eventually like to read his autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom.)

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Cristian, I really relate to your stories and writing. You do a fine job of painting a clear picture of experiences and emotions; and the fact that you continue to strive to overcome your struggles is inspirational. Thank You.

    Liked by 1 person

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