“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.”
-Sir William Ernest Henley
I will be the first to admit it, I like to be in control. Some may call this being a “control freak” but I politely disagree. Control freak has some negative connotations attached to it that I just don’t feel comfortable with. What’s so wrong with wanting to have a plan and sticking to it? I like to be in the know and I hate feeling left out of the loop. I like to know what all of my options are and then I like to make the best decision based off of those options. I like being prepared and knowing what I’m getting myself into. I don’t want to control others I simply want to understand my place in the world and what I’m doing in that place. I love purpose and meaning. It’s because of all this that I connect so well with the above quote. I’d much rather be called the master of my fate or the captain of my soul than a control freak. So much about how I’ve thought about “control” has changed over the past year. My first year as a student affairs professional has taught me to readjust any previous notions of control I had and because of that I have grown so much and fear so little.
In our field it’s all good and well to have a schedule or plan out our day, but rarely do any of our days go exactly as planned. There are so many unknown variables that come along with working with students. We must constantly be prepared to change our schedule or readjust our plans. Controlling every minute of your day isn’t going to happen when there are crises to deal with and students to assist. Secondly, when working with students it’s rare that we ever have all of the information. Being in the know is improbable and knowing what all of your options are is a luxury we do not have. Sometime you won’t know all the information and you won’t have a plan of action until you talk to that student, meet with that parent or deal with that crises. Students Affairs requires us to be flexible; To always be on our toes ready to adapt and prepared for any number of curveballs.
Often times this past year I’ve found myself asking “What can I control? What can I hold on to for some consistency?” What I found was so delightfully liberating and so overwhelmingly satisfying that it has changed my life entirely. I can control my thoughts. I can control how I feel about everything and I can control how I’m going to react to anything. I can choose to be optimistic. I can be stressed out about unexpected changes in my schedule or I can decide to love the detours life has given me. I can be uncomfortable with the uncertainty that our profession so often throws our way or I can decide to embrace the beauty of ambiguity. I can choose. That is true control and that is true freedom. That is what Henley meant by being the master of his fate. Our futures are dependent on our decision. And I decide to be happy. I am so lucky to be in a field that has given me all the tools, reasons, and grace to leave the control freak behind and embrace being the Captain of my soul.