On Potential and its Demise

What is potential? When I was a child, I felt like I had infinite potential. I had confidence, I had drive, I had dreams, and a seemingly unending well of energy. I excelled in school, in university, in grad school. I pursued interests and people and places, an entire life’s worth of experiences and opportunities before middle age. I thought I could change the world, through activism, through career, through living my best life.

But I still haven’t finished the book I’ve wanted to write for two decades. I never became an accomplished journalist or science writer, nor an environmental leader taking down corporate greed at every turn. I feel mediocre, like I wasted so much potential, but I don’t even know where or how it happened exactly. In my late thirties, I am exhausted. Why? Because of the bleakness of the world? I don’t fully believe that, because I also see it’s beauty and wonder. Am I jaded? Perhaps, at least to an extent. I tire of jargon and media and tropes and the quick forgetfulness of humans. Maybe it’s because of the viruses I’ve accumulated that have worn my body down, eroding my potential into a weathered sandstone version of my full self, interesting to look at but quickly worn away. Maybe it’s depression. Maybe it’s self-indulgence. Maybe it’s just being an adult.

When is potential fulfilled? Never. There is always more potential. The feeling of accomplishment is just momentary ego bliss, it doesn’t last. But I want to do so much in this life while at the same time I don’t want to do anything. Well, I want to sleep. But I want to read all the books, learn all the things, feel all the feels. Contribute, create. When I’m rested. When I’m energized. When is that? What does one do when passion evolves into a more subdued, subtle form, less easily identified but no less real and no less able to let one connect with the world? I do find happiness in many things, mostly things that will not help me support myself financially but do make me feel more whole, more solid, more joyful. But I’m still so tired. How does one transform that joy into the energy to push forth and trek courageously down a sustainable path? 

What is potential, really, but a distraction from the present? One’s potential is what could be, what you measure yourself against or what others measure you against. Is it possible to throw away the yard stick and instead embrace the wind-eroded Self? Because what is that sandstone structure but the resilience of a thousand, a million, years of transformation beheld for a moment before it melts away into the ever stretching desert? I want potential to melt away too, to dissolve and disappear and free us of the chains that leave us exhausted and down-trodden. How free it must feel to do and be without expectation. A book might get written or not, a job accepted or not, a path chosen or not. Who cares? Compassion and love can exist regardless. Action can exist without expectation or judgement. So can transformation. So can a better world. Visions and dreams need not be laden with potentiality, just inspiration and the energy to act upon it. I’m asking the universe to help me tap into that energy and connect with the inspiration to imbibe it.

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