Using brains I’d forgotten I had.

Well, well, well.

In the past week (that’s 7 days), I have submitted ten TAFE assessments. Yup, ten. I haven’t had that kind of study ethic since I was 11 years old. Although, I felt like I had to submit ten because since starting the course last August I had only submitted one, and I have an interview for a placement on Wednesday. So good and bad, I guess.

Potential is a very touchy subject for me. For my entire childhood and adolescence people told me I had so much potential, I was definitely going to ‘go places’ and ‘do things’. Now, I’m not saying my life is disappointing, but I certainly have never felt like I’m living the big life that everyone around me was so sure I was going to have.

When I was a teenager, I had a plan. I was obviously (ha!) going to grow out of my awkward adolescence and become sophisticated and reasonably attractive. This was definitely going to happen around the end of high school. I’d take a year off to travel, like my cousin did, and come back even more worldly and quietly experienced. Then, I’d be off to Sydney University (oh, the prestige) to study journalism and live in a trendy terrace house in Surrey Hills (a goal that is testament to my naivety at the time).

My life went quite differently, as can be expected. I dropped out of high school with six months to go, much to the incredulity and consternation of everyone who knew me (oh, all that wasted potential!), and I haven’t really studied since. It’s been ten years now.

I did have a fairly successful career in retail, but that nasty voice in my head has always whispered at me that pretty much anyone with more than half normal brain function could have a moderately successful career in retail.

Of course, I also have my son, there is nothing I would do to change him. I like to think that if my life had taken a different path I would never have known him, and that thought brings me positivity when I’m feeling like a loser.

But still, I’m ashamed to say that I have had moments where I feel like I’ve let everyone down, most of all myself. I know I’m intelligent, and it’s been very hard for me to come to terms with the fact that I coasted on my natural intelligence, for a long time. I did enough to get by, without ever having to really put my nose to the grindstone.

Towards the end of my high school career, I began to notice that the catch-cry was changing, ever so slowly, from ‘potential’ to ‘application’. “I would be capable of so much more,” they’d say, “if I could just apply myself.” But that was the one thing no one had ever taught me how to do, and I’d never felt the need to learn.

I used to picture myself so clearly, I took for absolutely granted that a terrace in Surrey Hills & Sydney Uni was exactly where I was going to be. I still get a small ache and a twinge of sadness if I’m ever passing those tiny houses in the city.

But apparently it wasn’t a goal worth fighting for, because when the world started to ask more of me, for the first time in my life; instead of rising to the challenge, I gave up and walked away. I pretended I’d never even really had the goal in the first place, so people wouldn’t know my failure.

I’ve enrolled in several different courses since high school, even a university bridging course. I’ve told very few people about them, in case I didn’t end up following through again. Spoiler alert: I didn’t. Every single time.

But this time feels different. I don’t know what it is. Maybe it’s because it’s the first course I’ve attempted since having my son, so my life has more purpose now. Maybe it’s because I want to be a better provider and set a good example for him. Maybe I’ve actually found something I can be passionate about and not only do well in, but actually dedicate myself to succeeding in even if it becomes challenging.

I’m not leading up to something poignant with these questions, I honestly don’t know. But I’m pretty happy that I didn’t just walk away this time, when I realised I’d let myself fall so far behind.

All I can say is, I hope it lasts.

The best is yet to come. Stay you.

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