Do you worry, sometimes, that you’ve left it that bit too late? Whatever that ‘IT’ may be? Once when I was reading one of Margaret Atwood’s novels I came across the phrase, ‘potential has a shelf life’. It was a phrase that stuck in my mind and haunted me.
Does it? Does potential have a shelf life?
‘You’ll go far!’ Someone told may have told you, way back when. ‘I can’t wait to see what you accomplish.’ ‘You’re such a great writer! You’ll be a bestselling author one day!’
But what if you feel you haven’t got very far at all?
There are times in life when I’ve felt I’ve lost it. Lost that ‘factor’ people would remark on, once upon a time. And as the years seep by, I’ve been tempted to tell myself: it’s too late now.
I hear it all the time. ‘Oh, I could never do it now.’ ‘I’ve left it too late.’ ‘I’ve wasted my time.’ ‘I’m too weak/lazy/busy/old/insert-your-situation-here.’ And then followed up by that old chestnut: ‘It’s all right for you to say!’ But how do we know what another person has had to overcome? We don’t all conform to the same template.
The very words act as inhibitors. That very mindset prevents us from doing whatever That Thing is. With writing, too. ‘I’ve left those dreams behind me,’ I’ve heard people say. ‘I know I’ll never do it now.’
The phrase ‘self-fulfilling prophecy’ comes to mind.
All right, so things haven’t gone as we’ve planned. Things have blocked us, limited us, wounded us. We may not have caught the first train. We have spent a lot of time waiting at stations.
We’re not as adept as we’d like to be. We haven’t practised as we might have done and still stumble over the keys instead of playing a symphony with our eyes closed. Should we give up playing the instrument, give up the potential to make a beautiful sound?
Perhaps we need to stop thinking about all we haven’t done. What we might have done. What we could have written but didn’t. When we should have started something but never got round to it… and now it’s all still there, waiting and it’s huge.
We’ll make mistakes. We may end up taking the long way round, but we might pick up some unexpected lessons along the way.
Perhaps we need to consider, as Anne of Green Gables might say, that every day is new ‘with no mistakes in it’… However long it’s been since we picked up the pen or opened the ‘W.I.P’. However long it’s been since we dared to aspire to something more.
Let’s not let the things we haven’t done in the past dictate the future. It’s not too late, wherever we may be standing.
And don’t Christians believe in a God of restoration?
Let’s give ourselves permission to play with our dreams again.
This post originally appeared on the More than Writers blog