I am afraid of becoming like most of my family- a “could have been,” a person who did not exactly fail, but who did not live up to his potential, a person who settled for what was easy to obtain. Now, to me, settling does not imply failure. Failure is at least an attempt, but one that plunges you to the bottom instead of propelling you to the top. Settling is drifting aimlessly and allowing the current to control your life. This is why my family became construction workers instead of professional baseball players, waitresses instead of interior designers, and secretaries instead of doctors.
My cousin could have been an interior designer. She can do wonders with a paintbrush, taking a white wall and turning it into art. She took her son’s room and turned it into a “horsey” room, and turned her bathroom into a Venetian palace. So why isn’t her work in the pages of Architectural Digest or at least gracing others walls? It is because she settled for poor grades in high school, not going to college, and just being a waitress at Red Lobster. She wasn’t willing to work for what she loved and wanted. She let herself glide through life instead of taking control.
Her story scares me. I am so afraid that if I stop pushing and working that I will turn into her. I am afraid that my dreams will never become realities and I will end up using all of my potential to flip burgers. I will look back on my life and realize that I could have done so much more, but was too lazy to try. I would rather fail, with the knowledge that I at least tried, than look back and have to regret my inaction. I believe that being afraid of mediocrity keeps me from giving up. It is what keeps me doing my homework, studying, and staying out of trouble. This fear makes me never forget who I want to be. I use this fear, love this fear, and believe in this fear.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.