Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Infamous Potential

I've always been in that situation where certain people are expecting certain things from me, and other people are not expecting things from me directly but are expecting me to "go places" so to speak. This should be something I'm proud of, shouldn't it? I mean here I am, early 20's (not so early anymore but I refuse to feel older except when I need to) with my life ahead of me and the world at the tip of my finger just waiting to be grasped. And I'm wasting my life with ideas that never fall through and people that never stand up to responsibilities and here I am wanting so badly to do everything because I can do it better than how it is already done, or at least I got this complete idea that I can… which is of course wrong. But hell, I have potential!

Taking it from the top, first we have the parents who always want their children to be the best they could be and yet have no idea that they're actually destroying them in the process. The moment the child is born, the mother immediately pictures them a doctor, or an engineer. The father pictures them rich and famous, the president for example. And they immediately start working on their own version of that tiny human being; get them into the best schools affordable, make sure they do their homework and get good grades. And how they love the words "He's got potential" from their teachers, it's like a happiness pill. So they let their kids play sports that maybe the kids don't like all that much, but the girl has to go into gymnastics and the boys have to join the swim team. And if the kid should like the sport they're doing, they shouldn't do it too much because it may affect their grades. Music is an option that depends on the mother's mood and drawing is good for the child until the age of seven. My mother wanted me to be a doctor so badly, and if not a doctor then maybe a pharmacist? But it's partly my fault, I actually wanted to be a dentist (still don't understand how I wanted to put my hands inside the mouths of people). She wanted that so badly that she asked all our neighbors (who happened to be doctors and dentists to try and convince me to take biology in high school and if I get myself into one of their colleges, they'll take it from there and it wouldn't be as hard on me as it would be on the other kids *wink wink*.

So here I am, at the beginning of the point that would define what I would become in the future; before sanaweya amma, and I feel like I should go into engineering but apparently everyone else want me to go the other direction. I spoke to my English teacher who thought I should be a writer because I had so much potential, and wanted me to go to IGCSE in the first place because if I don't, I stop using English at that (AL English was almost non-existent after prep school). She even convinced me that she had connections in a famous English journal and that she'd throw in a word for me. then comes my biology teacher who asked for the aid of her fellow biology teacher who didn't know me but knew my brother well (we seemed to have grown into identical paths at the time) and they were both convincing me that I should do biology because – mind the repetition – I had so much potential. Now I was never good at drawing (at the time, turned out to be alright later), or sports because my mother always pulled me out of tennis school when school started (I was never a gymnast because I was a chubby kid, Thank you God for the blessing of being fat), or even had the slightest inclination of a music tutor as my mother probably thought that I would end up playing the flute on a Haram street night club. So there I was between English, Biology and all it could bring, and Engineering! I made the choice that I thought was right then and chose engineering because after all it was my choice (I think my brother may have pushed that choice a bit further in my head but I don't really blame him, not yet at least). And it hasn't turned out that bad.

My math teachers loved me and I loved what they were doing, my physics teacher hated me because I always made the stupid mistakes that no one seemed to think of (he was the only one who really screamed at me for it though, I did the stupid mistakes trick with all the teachers) and I slept during Arabic class while my poor friends studied biology 80 hours a week. I finished high school and went into The Faculty of Engineering, Cairo University, which I had fallen in love with the moment I saw it because it had civilized people; I mean they had trees on campus!! Again, my mother with the potential thing wanted me to be college staff. Lucky for me I had 2500 classmates instead of 150 so I didn't get that from my teachers as well. I decided to specialize in computer engineering; this is where I start blaming my brother, even though I got an A on drawing and I actually liked it. I forgot to mention, I got the you've got potential line from one of my drawing teachers who wanted me to go to mechanical engineering (because the teachers of the drawing class were from that department and because they had 2 girls every year in the entire class so I guess the man was missing the balance of nature). Before getting into computer engineering, my mom assembled a different crowd that time to help me with my decision: my aunt; a civil engineer, my cousin; an architect, and some more cousins who are civil engineers, and are married to civil engineers mind you. And they started the "I should go into architectural engineering department because they would get me the best jobs and I would enjoy it immensely and it didn't have a lot of studying involved", and because my mother told them to convince me! But again, I followed my brother's advice and went into computer engineering department because it just seemed so cool at the time. Do I regret this decision? I did at some point in my life, and I do from time to time but it wasn't such a bad place. However, this is where I blame my brother!

I shattered my mother's dream of joining the staff when I got my first D. I called her to tell her the term's credits, "Mommy, I got 3 A's, 2 B's, and a D" with the sun shining through my voice. What I got in response was "a D! you got a D!!! How could you get a D" and I think she was crying but I will forever convince myself that she wasn't. I looked at careers and decided on the one I'm doing now: Software Testing; the incredible world of destroying the software instead of creating it, which I still enjoy very much, at least for the time being. I don't remember if I got the potential line all through college as I didn't really care about what they were saying all that much. But I pride myself in getting A's on some courses where only 6 people would get the A, and C's on some courses where 50% of the class got A's.

I graduated and went to work at a nice software company where I had hoped to make an impression before even getting there, and I think I did. I got the potential line from my manager, and my manager's manager, and lots of other people. It was fun at first, felt on the top of the world, etc. but it was either I never worked hard enough (which I doubt because I was absolutely burned out when I got out of there) or it seemed I had never lived up to my potential. I went to visit my English teacher (the one who was going to put in a good word for me) and she renewed her offer about the writing thing, which I again passed at the time (How stupid can I get, I know!) and a couple of years later, I started this blog.

For me, it all comes down to this: will I ever come into all that infamous potential everybody seems to think I've got? Or is it just the way people like to think; my daughter is an astronaut, my student is a bestselling novelist, and my subordinate at one time is now a pioneer in the industry. I raised her, I taught her, I mentored her!

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