Mickey Z. -- World News Trust
June 4, 2017
“We tell ourselves stories in order to live.” (Joan Didion)
If I ever decide to write a memoir, it would take a couple of volumes to do it justice. This isn’t me boasting about importance or success. Far from it. It’s merely a fair observation about the variety and volume of people and “things” I’ve been involved with over the years. To be blunt, such a memoir would be no inspirational tome. In fact, it might end up filed under: tale, cautionary.
Possible memoir title: Overestimated potential.
Define “so many” and “talents”
In July 2007, my mother had 6 months to live and was justifiably worried about me and my future. During a phone call at that time, she said: “You have so many talents that are just being wasted right now.” Deeply moved, I wrote down that line and taped it to my computer. Through many ups and downs, I’ve tried to live up to Mom’s proclamation and, in the process, make her proud. The results have been mixed, at best.
In late 2016, I decided to really ramp up this peripatetic quest. July 2017 will mark a full decade since my mother attempted to inspire me. So, I wrote a theoretical comment I’d love to hear from her on that 10-year anniversary: “I’m so proud of you. You’re using your many gifts to live up to your true potential.”
Off I went, allegedly on a mission.
More stops and starts. More self-imposed pressure as July grew closer. It was one misstep after another. This ultimately left me more confused and discouraged than ever -- thus provoking me to finally ask the suddenly obvious question: What if my Mom was wrong?
Possible memoir title: When you’re not nearly as great as people say you are.
The Prince of Potential
What if my Mom was wrong? What if all those teachers and nuns during my 12 years of Catholic school were wrong about my allegedly limitless potential? What if all of them meant well but ended up unproductively feeding my delusions and thus, my disillusions?
So many of these teachers would see me with the “wrong crowd” and scold me. “Why do you hang out with them?” “You have so much more potential!” And so on. What if they were wrong? Perhaps I became a juvenile delinquent because, well, birds of a feather and all that. Imagine if -- irony of ironies -- I’ve actually been quite the overachiever!
As a child, my parents offered unconditional love -- even when I needed a firmer hand. Meanwhile, my older sister was (and probably still is) my biggest critic. She often accused my mother of babying me and accused me of being incredibly immature. Are you shocked to find out that my sister and I never cultivated a close relationship? Does it stun you to learn that my Dad and I were buddies and my Mom was my best friend? But: What if my sister has been right all along?
Possible memoir title: That awkward moment when you realize your critical sibling may see you more accurately than you see yourself.
What’s wrong with “above average”?
When you’re above average at lots of things, it’s not unusual for others to label this genius. And when a white guy like me gets called “genius” enough times, well… you gleefully own it. You begin to live accordingly. You choose genius-level ventures and when you inevitably fail, you’re left floundering. You blame everything and everyone (yes, this even includes yourself). You slip into periodic bouts of deep depression -- but you can become a “genius” at hiding it.
Eventually, those around you pump you back up. You conjure up yet another doomed scheme. And off you go!
Possible memoir title: My own worst enemy.
Embarrassment ain’t so scary anymore…
About six years ago, I visited a hypnotherapist. During our sessions, which combined hypnosis and talk therapy and acupuncture, she drew the following conclusion about me: “It seems you have a deep fear of being embarrassed.”
I couldn’t see it at the time but now I’d reply: “Of course I do! When you imagine yourself to be destined for greatness, you simply cannot afford to publicly stumble.”
So, yeah… I’ve voluntarily missed some wonderful opportunities in the name of (allegedly) avoiding embarrassment. You may wonder how in the world someone with this mindset could write such a self-effacing essay. Well, if you no longer hold yourself to a false standard, embarrassment ain’t so scary anymore. We humans do it all the time.
Possible memoir title: Please allow me to embarrass myself.
It’s all right, Ma…
Sorry Ma, but I’m no different (or better) than anyone else and therefore, I’m not wasting my talents. Perhaps (at times) I’ve even made the best of what I was blessed with -- and I would’ve enjoyed things a little more if I hadn’t seen it as a journey of unfulfilled potential. How much happier life could be if I stopped playing the misunderstood and under-appreciated genius role and simply embraced being Joe Schmo. Jane and Joe Schmo attain greatness at times. But they’re wise enough to not feel entitled to it.
In the words of the immortal political philosopher, Thomas Petty: “Baby, even the losers get lucky sometimes.”
Contrary to social media programming, most of my thoughts, ideas, and beliefs, my dreams, fears, and desires are not particularly significant or unique. All my private life choices certainly do not merit public documentation.
As for that theoretical comment I imagined getting from my mother this coming July, what if I’m already there? If so, I must seriously rethink whatever time remains for me. I should stop agonizing and over-reaching, stop driving myself crazy. Instead, for starters, here’s a novel idea: sit back, exhale, and embrace acceptance.
Likely memoir title: I’m just like most of you: Somewhere between average and above average.
(Unless, of course, all of the above is just another clever mind game to deflect blame and avoid responsibility. Uh-oh…)
Mickey Z. is the founder of Helping Homeless Women - NYC, offering direct relief to women on the streets of New York City. To help him grow this project, CLICK HERE and make a donation right now. And please spread the word!
That awkward moment when you run out of potential by Mickey Z. is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
Based on a work at http://worldnewstrust.com/that-awkward-moment-when-you-run-out-of-potential-mickey-z.