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“Potential” is a Dirty Word

This phrase has been wandering about in my mind for months now. Perhaps even near a year. Technically, it was “potential is a four-letter-word,” but we can all count and don’t need to get tripped up on technicalities. I was watching my favorite ADHD YouTuber “brain,” on How to ADHD. And she was interviewing someone and once again they brought up how they heard about all that potential they had as a student, or child, or whatever moment in life we hear such things. And we hear it a lot.

Here’s what hearing about my potential did for me, it helped me convince myself that I was a failure not made for this world. Why was it so impossible to live up to my “potential.” I was so smart, why couldn’t I live up to my potential? I was so talented, why couldn’t I live up to my potential? So creative, why couldn’t I live up to my potential? Why couldn’t I just make myself do the things that needed doing to be successful and live up to my potential?

And then, boom, I was 37 and learned all about my “potential” and the roadblocks that were in my way my entire life. The roadblocks we had identified for my spouse and children. The anger was a raging fire at all of the loss of time and “potential” that had been wasted behind me. The rage has burned out but the fiery desire to live and be who I want to be still lives.

I won’t spend time wasting away, grieving my “potential.” I won’t tell my children about their “potential,” either. Instead, I will tell them they are creative and beautiful and smart in their own way. And I will tell them that yes, it is hard. Hard to maintain a schedule. Hard to do what we don’t want to do, hard to concentrate on anything but what interests us most, hard to get up and go to work, hard to go to school, hard. And I don’t mean regular people hard, I mean for us it is like being sequestered within a torture chamber kinda hard. So please, don’t compare a neurotypical brain to what we experience. It is not the same. Love us and guide us through it and you won’t need to mention our “potential,” not even once.


I am a dreamer with her head in the clouds and one foot on the ground. Written word flows from me as a river does down a mountainside, and writing of any kind is something I do with great joy. I am an artist, an avid student of color theory and appreciator of DaVinci, Dali, and Dorothea Tanning. I am a student seeking to learn for the rest of her days. I am a wife who loves her husband for all he is, and a mother who loves her children for the same. I am me, and can only use words to describe what I do, not so much who I am.

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