One word broke me
One word broke me5 mins 520 5 mins 520
You're very talented, sweetheart."
"You're not like other kids."
Ever since I was born, I've been told I was extraordinary. That I was smart, that I was creative, that I was bright and clever. And I believed it.
I pushed myself to every limit and went through life floating on the appreciation, the admiration. I could draw, I could write, I could sing, I could speak, I could do math problems in my head. It was all perfect until ninth grade, when I 'grew up'.
Ninth grade was supposed to be the hardest class yet, where smart people failed. But I was determined to excel at it and prove everyone wrong. I took on many classes and worked meticulously, not letting anyone or anything lead me astray.
I had a major friendship crisis that year, in which I alienated myself from my best friends (only friends, really), but I still trudged ahead. I broke up with my longterm boyfriend, but I still didn't let it distract me. That is, until my midterms.
My mouth went numb and my mind shattered; there's no way I could possibly have gotten such average marks! I went about that month numbly, the emotions I had channeled into my work now rising up and swallowing me. And when I thought it couldn't get any worse, it did. Because that's when the phrase started.
My math teacher was disappointed in my marks and sighed to my mother, "She's got potential, ma'am, she's just not working hard enough." I looked at my shoes, tears filling my eyes. I had worked hard. How much harder did I have to work?
The next week, my German teacher told me, "Dear, you're a bright chid. I've never quite met a student like you. You've got potential."
"I know you can do better."
"You're a bright kid."
And so it began. Even after ninth grade, where I somehow managed to rank in the upper 2 per cent of my class, it continued. Even after I took on new teachers, it continued.
Potential, potential, potential.
I could be truly great, if I just tried. I was gifted with an IQ so unusual, that I was wasting it by scoring just slightly above than average grades. I had potential.
Now it's been three years. I thought I'd left that phrase behind, the phrase which quite literally haunted my dreams. But it was not to be.
I had recently taken on harder subjects, so as to gain admission into a respectable college next year. I was doing many extra-curricular activities and trying to keep up with the work. It was difficult and I was barely keeping my head above the water but, I was trying. I was kicking and thrashing, not letting the water level rise. But then.
"Your daughter is very intelligent, but she can score better. I know she can. She's got the...."
Potential. Some might take these words as a compliment, which is probably how the speakers meant them, but to me, it was always a blow to the stomach. These matters hit me much harder than they're supposed to and this recurring nightmare of mine had finally broken me.
After this incident, I went about my life the same, but it was much more difficult than before. I struggled to keep up with my work and attending classes was torture. Every moment and action drained me, my voice dropped to a dull whisper and I could not enjoy anything.
My head was well and truly below the water, and it was only a matter of time before I drowned.
Potential, potential, potential.
Every time someone told me I had 'potential', I always had a vivid mental image: I was a thin, copper wire, curled into a small spiral. Electricity flowed through me, golden and powerful, humming at the edges. There was so much of it, that I could burn the world if I wanted to. A little spiral with too much potential energy. But how much of it could I utilise without melting and permanently damaging the spiral? Nowadays, I felt burned and charred, my electricity slowly dying.
Everything accumulated and festered and it finally broke free one day. It was simple enough: my sister was taking a shower in the bathroom we shared, even though I wanted to do so before her, in order to fit in a small study session before school.
I dropped to my knees as my mother frowned at my 'overreaction' and I clasped my hands on my ears. I felt like clawing my skin out, because there was nothing else I could do. There was nothing I could do about the huge pile of work I had to do. 'Potential'. There was nothing I could do about improving my academic performance. 'Potential'. There was nothing I could do to better myself. 'Potential'.
So I screamed. I screamed as loud as I could, my voice breaking in the middle, the sound slightly muffled by my hands. The scream sounded unnatural and funny perhaps, but it felt nice not to hear anything for a change. It drowned out whatever my mother was reprimanding me for, whatever my father was disappointed in me for. It drowned out that insufferable word that would not leave me. It felt good, hands on my ears and my throat ripping, the coolness of the marble floor on my aching knees.
After my voice left me, I curled into a ball and wept. My parents worriedly clamoured around me as I explained my plight to them, my hurt and my hopelessness. My mother hugged me without offering any solution whatsoever, which felt nice.
I wish I had done it. I wish I had screamed. Because I just stood still and wept silently, it festered more. Nobody knows the rotten fungus growing inside me, and I wish I had told them. I wish I could escape that word. That phrase. And all the responsibilities that came with it.