When you are born, you are filled with an unlimited supply of potential. It is not until you age and are shaped by society that you begin to lose this feeling of being able to accomplish whatever you set your mind to. Even now as I write this, I find myself doubting the words that I had rehearsed over and over again in my head on my way home. Although I had almost the same conversation with Melanie as I will have with you guys today, I am filled with doubt, wanting to erase everything that is currently on the page. What makes it worse is if you ask a kid to write a short story, they won’t hesitate to write whatever comes to mind. They will write without thinking, allowing the words to flow from their minds onto the page. Yeah, it won’t be as professionally written as what your writing may be, and it sure as hell won’t be the next Hemingway novel, but it will be true to their intent. The story will be raw. Can you say the same?
As I made my way home, I had a conversation with Melanie about what she wanted to major in for college. She was nervous that majoring in education was not the right choice for her, that she would somehow screw it up and ruin her life. Add in the pressure of education not being something that her parents and fellow relatives thought would be best for her, and her fear of not making the right choices multiplies. In hopes of being able to reassure her that she was making the right choice, I began to ask her some questions. The one that stuck out the most was…
What do you see yourself being able to do in twenty years, while still being happy?
We then began to get on the topic of her potential and whether majoring in education would allow her to live up to her full potential or not. Her worry in this aspect was that she would be wasting her “smarts.” The last thing that she wanted was for her to waste all the hard work she had put in, all the time spent studying, all the late and stressful nights worrying about her latest test grade. Why would she have done all that just to follow down a path that would be wasting her potential, wasting her education and her “smarts?” It would be different if she didn’t try during school or if she chose to slack off; then the simple act of getting into college would have come as a shock to her parents and anyone close to her. But the fact that she was able to get into her top three colleges, plus some others, with ease, just to go for education? Wouldn’t that be a waste, she asked me.
I told her to make a list of majors that would work with her, that she could find herself happy doing for the rest of her life, just in case she needed something to fall back on. Just in case she found out, in a few months or years, that education truly wasn’t for her.
But I also made sure to explain to her that she needs to do what is best for her. Not what is best for her parents, not what’s best for her relatives. What is best for her.
It is the moment that you attempt to please everyone in your life that you begin to lose sight of who really needs to be pleased by you: yourself.
Here’s the deal with potential: everyone has an unlimited supply of it from the moment they are born. As we age, we begin to slowly lose out on that feeling of being able to do whatever the hell we please with our lives. Society begins to take hold of us, shaping us into what they feel is best for the current world. Time goes on and before we know it, we are faced with the question of what we are to do with our future. Once again, society takes hold and commands you to follow a certain path, instilling the fear of not being good enough or not being able to make it.
We must realize, however, that this is not the case.
It matters not whether we are fifty years of age or we are fifteen: we are capable of doing whatever we wish to set out to do.
Your eight-year-old cousin who’s the biggest brat you have ever met on the east side of the country has the ultimate potential to become the first female president. She can grow up being a lazy slob of a woman, being untidy and unkept, seemingly having no real drive in life. Yet at some point, she can be hit with the motivation to do something great and boom, she becomes the first female president.
Even though your dad is going on fifty, working sixty-plus hours a week at what seems to be a dead-end job: he has the same ultimate potential as your eight-year-old cousin. For all you know, he could decide one day to quit his job and work to become a famous artist. And he could make it too, if he so chooses.
And don’t forget that bum on the streets, who begs for pocket change as you make your way through the city, exploring it for the first time. Since you don’t know his story, maybe he had once been a millionaire. Sounds unlikely? It really isn’t. Maybe he wasn’t that rich of a man, but who’s to say that he was not at some point a successful family-man who was able to support his family of five. There’s always that chance of him losing a loved-one, spiraling into a depression that caused him to lose his job and, eventually, everything else he held close. Or maybe he was a military veteran who came home to nothing in the first place; without the financial support and without the help to get on his feet in a now unfamiliar environment, his only option was to be on the streets.
You don’t know what you are capable of until you push yourself, until you find the drive and the motivation within to do what it is you want with your life. As long as you are able to make yourself happy, that is all that matters in the long-run. Never forget that.