#SAGASATURDAYS: By the Way by Elgin Charles
Preface: Bound, Broken, and Wrapped in Chains
“To be honest in your deed, is to be righteous.”
To live a righteous life is among my heart’s greatest desires. There was a time when I longed for the days that I could present myself to the world and show thyself approved. A proclamation such as this is the ultimate submission to vulnerability. Over the years, I have learned that the unfiltered truth can lead to disapproval and rejection from the world around you. And while he who has discovered that to walk in their truth unapologetically, discovers power—the essence of who we are and who we become is forever bound in notions of acceptance. Like many, the threat of not being accepted, forced me to wear an invisible mask for much of my life.
It is my belief that we all wear an invisible mask that the world knows nothing of. I call it “Power.” If it were not for this mask, we would run the risk of being exposed to the masses. The mask that I speak of shields, covers, hides, and shelters us from dangers seen and unseen. Power is the face that we decide to show the world. It is that of who we desire to be and the fullness of what we believe matters most to others. The face of power has the ability to allow us to fly under the radar and to blend in with the elements that remove the danger of scrutiny. Power gives us permission to be pleasing in the eyes of others, shielding our greatest pain. The mask of power does not allow for transparency; it cannot thrive there and it is not worthy there.
Lo and behold, just beneath the surface, lies the mask of truth. I call it “Weakness.” The mask of weakness shields the true and purest versions of ourselves from the storms of life. Our survival is found in this space. The mask of weakness allows us to exist, unscathed from the world’s perception of who we truly are. Our scars live dormant here. The risk of exposure of the mask of weakness poses a threat to existence as we know it. Those who are unwilling or are unable to subject themselves to public scrutiny, only allow the mask of weakness to make appearances during quiet moments in order to relinquish pain. The mask of weakness hurts like hell and fuels our fears. It shows up unexpectedly in the presence of our greatest trials and tribulations. The mask of weakness can be described as a sweet dream or a beautiful nightmare.
Our ability to wear these masks is a resounding proclamation and testament to the alter ego that we each possess. We all have an alter ego that the world knows nothing about. It preserves the depths of our souls that sometimes even we would rather not see.
The mask of my alter ego has forced me to cast a part of myself into a sea of forgetfulness for many years and for so many reasons. The agony of doing so has at times brought me to my knees in humility. The journey, composed of steps into a land of untruth, is a dead end. Nothing lives or grows there. There can be no evolution in that space.
The pressure from the weight of the mask atop my face has made it difficult for me to breathe. The burden of the mask has compromised the quality in my ability to hope, dream, and pursue. The internal battle that has ensued over the years has, on occasion, crushed my spirit; but still, like a Phoenix, I rise. The torment I have lived through, in the presence of my alter ego, could be a book in and of itself.
For me, that acceptance that I so greatly desired from the world, has come at the expense of the fullness of my truth. Like so many, I’ve lived my life in secrecy. I was unwilling to walk in truth for many reasons; the most prevalent among them was the prospect of being denied acceptance. Today, I ponder what acceptance it is that we truly seek. Is there an imaginary line that we are granted permission to cross amidst being approved? Is there a secret elite society that we receive more abundance from if we are acceptable in the eyes of others? The need to be accepted has held me captive in ways unimaginable.
I was threatened by the fear of my truth and what it would allow the world to make of me. I inherited the notion of going to the grave with my deepest secrets and the perseverance of the ideology that my parents often referred to as “Letting sleeping dogs lie.” Albeit, I have determined that the weight of untruth is unequivocal bondage. The weight of my truth was like a noose around my neck and heavy laden on my heart. In full transparency, a defining moment in my life forced me to recognize that not walking in the fullness of my truth had the power to suffocate me until I took my last breath.
And as the cycle of life unfolds, we will all be faced with moments that take our breath away and those that change the trajectory of the choices we make when we arrive at the forks in the road of our journeys. The passing of my father was mine. When he gained his wings into heaven, I recognized that the wisdom he imparted within me would now allow me to discover a pair of my own. The single act of telling my story is equivalent to taking flight in so many ways.
I had been unwilling to come forward with the truest sentiments of my heart prior to my father’s passing because I didn’t want to hurt him. I longed for his acceptance. I longed to make him proud and for him to see that I was a reflection of all that he was. He lived his life according to the scriptures of the Bible, and for so long, I questioned if I had been the total opposite. His passing broke the weakest link of my chains and confirmed that the wings that he had given me were given unto me that I might soar. Soaring for me also means giving all of who I am to the world. My commitment forced me to do so, with vigor and the fullness of my whole heart.
And even though I have relinquished the need for acceptance, I must admit that in my quiet moments, the act of peeling back the layers to tell my story has caused me to consider what the world will make of me. The act of telling my story represents an act of great sacrifice. The quest to walk in and discover the truth has forced me to dig into some of the deepest pockets of my heart, to restore memories of hurt and pain that I had buried. It has allowed me to see the stars amidst the darkest nights of my life. The trials and tribulations are often too traumatic to allow them to take up space in the cache of our memories, but my greatest discovery was the poetic justice of it all. For every pain, joy prevails. The silver lining is ever present if we choose to wear the rose-colored glasses that reveal the rainbows, which appear after the rain. My greatest joy is knowing that life is worth living for so many reasons. I’ve learned that God will dip his brush into our deep wounds and ugliest scars and paint a masterpiece. It is with admiration and appreciation of His holy work in me that I walk boldly into the sunset of my story. In these moments of truth, I have decided to blaze the trails of righteousness that you might discover the embers in the fire to blaze your own. I am no longer bound, broken, and wrapped in chains. I am free.
Riveting and seamlessly authentic, By the Way chronicles the exploits of Elgin Charles, known to the world as “The Emperor of Hair.” Through an intricately aligned series of fiery confessions, readers bear witness to the coming of age tale of a young man in search of identity and divine purpose.
With exquisite lyricism, By the Way grants access to a world where the quest for love without limits and the ability to achieve access to the opulence that life has to offer is won.
A uniquely triumphant and candidly unnerving read that serves a completely raw depiction of a life lived fearlessly and out loud, despite the odds and the spiritual warfare raging within.