Paradox of Potential

I cried in the car today. A familiar song with sappy lyrics took me down hard. I remembered back to college graduation and how much my mom loved the tune: “I hope you never fear those mountains in the distance. Never settle for the path of least resistance…And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance…I hope you dance.”

There it was. What once stood in all of its wide-eyed, bushy-tailed glory: Potential.

We’re raised to believe in our potential. We are all unique and have special gifts that will change the world. We can do anything. But as I get older, I look around and mainly see everyone on the path of normalcy, only now they’re looking down at their children saying, “You can do anything.”

Are we just passing potential from generation to generation?

“There is one place that all the people with the greatest potential are gathered and that’s the graveyard,” Viola Davis said in her acceptance speech for Best Supporting Actress at the Academy Awards. “People ask me all the time — what kind of stories do you want to tell, Viola? And I say exhume those bodies. Exhume those stories — the stories of the people who dreamed big and never saw those dreams to fruition.”

What gives? Is reaching our potential a metaphoric mountaintop that’s always going to be in the distance?

“Almost everyone passes the buck to the next generation, while they do what it takes to make a living,” my friend agreed. “But I have no idea what the solution is. Best of luck to us both!”

Listen, I’m not complaining about my life. I’ve escaped the corporate noose, I work with people I admire with complete autonomy, I travel and live in multiple cities, I’m in love, I have wonderful family and friends. But can I really say that I am living out my maximum potential and passionately doing exactly what I want to do with my precious time on this planet?

Can you?