The notion that “I am the master of my fate” was drilled into me throughout my childhood. This very American belief that if I conceive of a goal, my hard work and determination will see me to realizing it, shaped my behavior for most of my life. This conviction has brought me professional success and has driven family and friends to seek my support to dissect difficult problems and accomplish complex tasks.
At the end of 2016, my 89-year-old father’s health had taken a common course for the long lived: his body was breaking down. Each time he returned to the path of healing, something seemingly unrelated snuck up and derailed his progress. Each time a doctor informed us of a new twist in his prognosis, I put a new plan in place to retake control and maintain stability for those that depended on me. However, there came a point when no amount of planning, hard work, and determination could see us through.
I remember staring at the floor of his hospital room, waiting for him to return from a test. I was fatigued and anxious after receiving another round of bad news from the doctors. My latest plan – one that would enable me to balance being there for Daddy, caring for my 7-year-old, supporting my mother emotionally, and performing at work – was falling off the rails. I felt desperate and discouraged, and unable to regain control.
When Daddy returned to the room, he saw that my facade of strength had disintegrated and asked, “What’s wrong with my darling daughter?” In that moment, I took a leap, allowed my vulnerability to show, and trusted in something bigger than me, the outcome be damned. Islipped into his arms and confessed that I was very scared. He hugged me tight in response: “I was wondering when you were going to allow me to be your Father again.” We remained holding each other until the nurse came in.
That moment with Daddy was a game-changer in my life. It clarified what faith means to me: to trust in the bonds of love and family, things that are intangible and larger than me, and believe that they will lead me to a positive outcome, even though that outcome may not be the product of a tangible plan. Although I have not cast off the idea that intent and hard work will help shape my future, I no longer believe that they are the only keys to a positive outcome. Rather, I believe that placing my trust in community and having faith in the impalpable force that connects us will bring me and those I love to the right place.
Alba-Justina (A-J) Secrist is a New York native; a mother to 9-year-old Charlottean, Frida Secrist; and a compliance manager at Wells Fargo Securities. She loves podcasts, David Bowie, salsa classics, stand-up comedy, fashion, and Batman.