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.

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

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.

-William Ernest Henley

I read this poem to my students today. We’re currently reading a couple novels, Ender’s Game and The Book Thief, with half the class reading each one. I keep my students going, while in different texts, by aligning a series of themes that apply to each. The students can then access each other through discussion and writing about these common themes. The theme this week is one of independence* and this poem resonates deeply with that idea.

So, why is it here too? THIS IS A POEM FOR ALL OF US. This is the manifesto of DIY, of saving and investing rather than spending and wasting. This poem speaks to what it is I mean to do here: rebel against consumerism. If we are going to start cooking for ourselves, walking and riding bikes to move ourselves, doing anything different at all, really, we must stand tall and independent. When the menace of the years** finds me, they will find me “unafraid” as well; I’ll know I’ve done right by me and mine. Truly, what is good about minimalism, anti-consumerism, and self-independence is the knowledge that comes with self-worth.

It is too easy today, especially for teachers and other lower-middle-class folk, to dispel any ideas of self-sufficiency, let alone ideas of early retirement and Financial independence, as states of being only to be reached by the wealthy. It is too easy to complain that the system is against us, that teachers don’t get paid enough. “How can they expect to live a nice life without over $100,000 a year?!?” This is all so WHINEY! Get a grip people! Get your shit together.

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

It doesn’t matter where you start in life. It doesn’t matter what “bludgeonings of chance” have befallen you. Sure you are in the “fell clutch of circumstance.” We all are though. That is not why you are not where you want to be in life. You are where you are because of the decisions you have made. YOUR ARE THE MASTER OF YOUR FATE.

So, stop whining. Start saving. Cook for yourself. Make that bread. Pay off those debts. You can get where you want to. I know you can. Get FIT!


*Independence is only a subject, I know. Our full theme this week is “How is autodidactic learning the most powerful learning?”
**This is the perfect poem to tie in with The Book Thief. That book is narrated by Death, or the “Menace of the Years.” But, is life really just a collection of menacing years? Not if you start living for yourself. Not if you get FIT!

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