freedom · health

Regained Potential

Growing up, I could tell there was something not quite “right” about me. Not inherently  wrong, but different enough that -try as I might- I could not fit in. After I failed at almost every convention, I gave up on achievement and shifted my focus to survival. For good reason, it seemed: By my early 20s, I had a prognosis of early death. It was expected I would die by violence imposed by a companion or a stranger, or by suicide.

Navigating intense symptoms that are expected to be life long is a strange experience. It’s essentially an “alternate reality.” Little of the standard wisdom or instruction applies. The life manuals and advice columns make no sense in relation to our experiences. We’re flying by the seat of our pants, taking stabs in the dark, figuring it out (or not) as we go…   Every day that we survive seems like a random miracle, one that -frankly- we don’t always want.

It’s a tough go.

Now in my 40s, I have a life I could not have imagined back then. If someone had told me this would be so, I would have laughed in derision…or cried in literal disbelief and grief.

Once in a while today I have a fleeting sense of sadness over my “lost potential.” What if we had known more back then? What if physicians had had more information? What if research had taken the world further? What if schools had been willing to offer more options? I coulda been a contender!, I want to shout.

And then I remember I am a contender. I fought the good fight…and holy shit, I won! I found my way. Though I will likely always have my disability, I also became hilariously healthy. Through intensive therapies, I actively and effectively learned the social stuff I hadn’t picked up intuitively. I figured out my most critical needs and prioritized those. As my second to last step, I sorted out my finances.

Now? I’m immersed in the learning most people got to do when they were kids! I love it. I take grade 3 math, then work my way up. I enroll in first-year English and surprise myself with capacity. I register for a formatting class, am introduced there to Excel formulas, and unexpectedly start a whole new trajectory.

My potential isn’t lost. It was on hiatus through too many difficult years, yes. But it is now regained. There is no reason I can’t start from scratch at 30 or 40 or 50 or 60. I likely have a good 50 years ahead of me still. I can live my whole lifetime over, this time in joy and vibrancy.

My start was long, weird, and fraught, but my potential? Fully intact.

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8 thoughts on “Regained Potential

  1. Oh how I loved reading this! I, tpo, have felt sad about my “lost potential”, and would much rather frame it as being on hiatus. 🙂
    Thanks!!!!

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  2. Great post, Joon! I’ve often thought the same thing about my potential – wished I’d gotten into my 2 12-step programs earlier in life. Some ‘potential’ wasted there for sure. But the potential is still here right now.

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  3. I’m so glad this resonated, BNgarden, Annie, and Sandra -and in relation to a variety of life paths and stages! It thrills me, too, to know others are experiencing a sense of regained potential, much life ahead 🙂 We weren’t alone on the first journey, and none of us is alone in this one, either! Cool.

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  4. Hello, I came over from the MMM forum. I struggle with this too. I can really go down the rabbit hole with thoughts about what if I had the training when I was younger that I’m doing now. But realizing that I could start from scratch later in life is what made my life significantly better.

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    1. Welcome, MMM-friend! I’m so glad you, too, realized this piece. That rabbit hole is so twisty and full of nooks we can get stuck in! Thank goodness we can turn ourselves around and head back out.

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  5. I too am from the MMM forum. I have been wanting to check out your blog for a while and I must say I am impressed. I think we overlook people’s potential far too easily. i.e. “if you don’t have a degree then you are not successful”. I am amazed at what people can do with the right environment, motivation and have seen amazing progress in the students in my Wife’s special Ed students. Even though we are both FIRED now, we can’t go shopping without being stopped by a family of one of the ex students and get the story on how the kids are doing now… Its pretty damned impressive and makes me wonder as the so called “successful” engineer which of us has had the bigger career. My Wife has certainly impacted way more people than I have.

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    1. Frank, what delightful words! Thank you for those.

      I’m certainly grateful to people like your wife who have helped me and continue to help me. (I’m newly attending college and adult upgrading, via the support of the school’s disability department, but have been supported by many others along the way.)

      I, too, believe there is so much opportunity for people with brain quirks and other minority experiences to excel, if collectively we create that room and offer some support.

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