The idea that one can be better, do better, live life better, it’s all so subjective. Most of us are just trying to get by. Some of us are reaching, searching for something beyond what we have and who we are.
As far back as I can remember, I imagined that I would one day find it within myself to be the best person I can be and I would have a life I could be proud of. So far, so textbook”self help” narrative.
Unrealised potential is a concept that has been so often attached to me that I couldn’t help but internalise it. My school reports all intimated that I might do so much better if I just applied myself. I was in a top teir class in a streamlined school but I was hardly ever near the top of my classes. I guess it was thought I might be if I worked at it.
Two things made it unlikely that I would strive for any kind of excellence when I was in school:
1. I’ve rarely seen life as an olympics. I’ve, for the most part, only been competitive with myself and only then when it really meant something to me.
2. I was exhausted so much of the time. People, including me, had no idea the energy it took to keep up with my peers and just to live a life as close to ‘normal’ as possible.
It’s taken me many years to get over the disappointment in myself for not reaching my “full potential”. There have definitely been moments where I could have tried a lot harder and applied myself more. I have to let that go. I can’t do anything about that now.
It’s impossible now to imagine my life if I had done things differently. Until recently that bothered me a great deal. Now I look back at younger me and I just want them to relax and give things a go and not worry so much about a future that is never going to happen.
It can be useful to an extent to plan for a future and to have goals and think about where we want to be, all that jazz, but it can only ever be a hypothetical projection. Unexpected things happen. Life happens; despite our plans, our goals, our desires. If we pin too much hope on our future, we devalue the life we are living right now. Given that all we have is now, it’s important that we give it our full attention.
I’m learning to appreciate the life I have. Not that I didn’t before but I always wanted better. Much better. I had no idea though how much the future was truly scaring me as my projections began to mutate into parodies of themselves, or worse, to fade away only to be replaced with frightening dystopias.
The unrealised potential that had been alluded to so constantly throughout my life was crushing me and, ironically, rendering me completely useless in the face of a formless future. Now, as I focus more on today, on this moment, I can look forward to tomorrow, whatever that is.