Potential is probably the weirdest thing in the world. I mean, it’s supposed to be a good thing, but then it can turn bad if you don’t actually reach it. And sometimes we don’t reach it because of all the pressure put on us to “JUST PERFORM, DAMMIT.” I guess I feel it about as much as anyone. I remember in elementary school all the teachers labeled me the kid with the most potential, probably because I wasn’t quite living up to my possibilities back then, and I think I’ve come full circle.
Did I think that at 38 years old I would have it all figured out, that I would finally live up to that label? Well, it certainly hadn’t happened at 21. I barely knew my own name, much less where I was going in life, or what to do with all that potential so many others saw in me. Or even at 25 when I was finally back in school striving for some sort of redemption on the time I had wasted before. Maybe I started to live up to that potential when I finally started believing in myself, not in everyone else’s opinion of me. Because that’s what it is, isn’t it?
We get pigeonholed pretty early on. “Junior’s going to follow in my footsteps.” But Junior doesn’t want to follow in your footsteps. Maybe your shoes are too small for the path Junior wants to walk. Did you ever think about that? I’m old enough to be president now, you know, and what have I done that’s worthy of all that potential I apparently had when I was a child? And I don’t mean getting married and having a family. Those are amazing things that have happened to me and for me, but what have I done to satisfy my own potential’s high bar it set for me so long ago?
I got an education degree, and a teaching certification. I’m proud of both of them. In fact, I still have my tassel from my graduation ceremony, but that was 10 years ago. “What have you done for me lately?” Potential is such a dangerous word because it implies future results, but it doesn’t specify when the “future” is done… because the future is never done, so the what have you done for me latelys will never stop, at least not in my own head. I need to find a way to be satisfied with myself as a work in progress, to realize that I will never be fully realized, so potential means nothing.
Yet potential means everything. But only if I never reach it.