Of Cheerleaders, Mentors and Lost Potential

Growing up, I didn’t have a lot of cheerleaders.

My parents were good, loving parents who genuinely wanted the best for their children.  It’s just that their world was small. Having both grown up poor, they preferred choices that were safe, practical, and responsible. Things like risk and adventure frightened them. After all, on the flipside of risk and adventure are failure and uncertainty. Failure was irresponsible, a sign that you were lazy or flawed. And uncertainty…? Uncertainty was the breeding ground of anxiety -not to mention the precursor to inevitable failure. It was to be avoided at all cost.

I don’t want to put everything on my parents’ shoulders though. As an above average but unremarkable student, I was largely invisible in school. I learned very early that attention goes to those who are either at the very top and at the very bottom. Students like me, who got good grades and didn’t cause problems, were left on their own. Thus, I managed to not read a single book in honors English without anyone noticing.

Part of the blame belongs to me, as well.  Having been conditioned to think practical and responsible, I was too frightened or too trapped in my box to dream big.  I didn’t know how to take risks.  It’s one of the reasons it took me so long to sell my first novel.  I didn’t know how to focus my potential or how to go balls to the wall after a dream.

Eventually, I learned to become my own cheerleader, and push myself.  I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished, but, damn, it’s been a long, lonely upstream swim, and it hurts to think of how much more I might have accomplished had someone – anyone – pushed me to embrace my full potential.

To this day I find myself longing for the advocate I never had growing up.  Someone who is invested in my dreams as I am and help me be “more.”

Here’s the thing though: You can’t turn back the hands of time. There is no getting back the potential I might have lost.  Those days, the mindset I might have developed, they’re gone forever and no mentor will ever bring them back. I’ll never be an uber-focused, big thinking person who becomes a major industry player, nor will I be the relaxed artist content to create for creativity’s sake because that’s not who I was raised to be. I simply don’t have the psychological skills.

I’m who I am, and it’s time to stop beating myself up because I’m not someone different. Self-acceptance begins now.


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