Your Mom Has Potential.

I cringe when I hear the word “potential.”  I hate it.  (I don’t use “hate” very frequently.) For as long as people have been judging me, I’ve been told I have a lot of “potential.”  I have the potential to excel at basketball and volleyball; I have potential as a writer.  Well, guess what?  I don’t find one iota of encouragement in the sentence, “Camille, you have potential.” All “potential” means is that I suck right now, but someday I might not suck quite so badly.

Potential.  Bah.

Why can’t people simply tell me I have promise?  Promise is so much more…hopeful.  To be “a promising young writer”—now that’s really saying something.  But to have potentialEverything has potential; it’s nothing special.  Our hand-me-down bedroom furniture has potential.  To tell me I have potential is just like saying all I need is a can of black spray paint and I’ll be as good as new.

For a few weeks at the beginning of this semester, I was actually beginning to deceive myself into believing I might want to become an English professor someday.  It seemed like a swank job: Lecture students, make them fall in love with me by cracking witty jokes, take the summers off, hold office hours…

…Until I had a reality check and remembered how much I despise all my professors [save one or two]—and have despised them since the beginning of my university experience five years ago.  I am certain I could not handle the stress of being so loathed by so many people.  I say I have thick skin, but for heaven’s sake, I’m not a rawhide!  I wouldn’t be able to deal with it.

By the same thought process, I have come to the conclusion that once I am a prominent, professional writer, I will never thank any of my teachers for anything (though I would be an ingrate to pretend my parents and elementary school teachers never taught me anything [I give credit where credit is due]).  But university-speaking, every post-secondary English professor I’ve had has done more damage than good.

So to the professor who takes the time to “encourage” my writing potential, despite the consistently lousy marks she’s given me these past two months, I say this:

Don’t.  Just…don’tMy opinion of myself has not lowered because of the bad grades you’ve given me.  Yes, I’m upset about the grades, but not because I believe they reflect my mental capacity—rather, I’m bitter because I deserved better.  The fact that you see “potential” in my writing does not uplift my self-esteem any more than your 74% mark wounds it.  Believe it or not, I am able to distance my good character from the grades I receive in this pitiful excuse for a class.  I realise that a 74% on an essay you graded is nothing more than your opinion and, quite frankly, your opinion is becoming less important to me with every passing day.  I’ve always known my strengths and weaknesses, and I’ve known my “potential” long before you ever deigned to inform me of it.  I feel encouraged when I score marks that I actually deserve—if you want to be a boon to my writing career, grade me justly.  Otherwise, give me my 74 lousy percentage points, and leave me be—don’t pull me aside to generously declare how certain you are that I might not suck someday.  It is hypocritical of you, and it’s unbecoming.

Potential. Bah.

About Camille

I'm Camille. I have a butt-chin. I live in Canada. I was born in Arizona. I like Diet Dr. Pepper. Hello. You can find me on Twitter @archiveslives, Facebook at, instagram at ArchivesLives, and elsewhere.
This entry was posted in Canada, fiascos, mediocrity, my edjumacation and me, watch out or I'll blog about you. Bookmark the permalink.

25 Responses to Your Mom Has Potential.

  1. Katie says:

    Preach it, sister! Preach it good!

    (If I give you the email address of several of my college English professors, would you telling them off, too?)

  2. Granamama says:

    What’s the idea bringing me into this. As your mom I ALWAYS told you that you were not living up to your potential. You do have great potential as a chosen daughter of a Heavebnly Father who loves you and so do I. WHat you do with what you have is up to you. I love you, the Lord loves you and Kyle loves you. What more do you need? Take the sword of potential, promise, good intentions, or whatever you want to call it and go and conquer the world. You can do anything yo9u want in life if you will work hard enough at it and include your Heavenly Father as your partner. You know who you are, now do something valiant, courageous and important to show YOURSELF what potential really is.

    My love is always with you and I trust you to ask for my help. (That’s a 6-12 year old affirmation and that is the stage that you sound like you’re in as you are recycling your life—the BLUE ones. I will send you more of them so that you can realiZe what you are and where you are going.

    Te amo mucho y mis pensamientos siempre esta contigo.


  3. Geneva says:

    That’s the terrible thing about writing. It is so subjective. The hardest part of writing is figuring out how the teacher (or prof) wants it. It’s not the doing, it’s the mind reading. Science is much more concrete. Either you memorized it, or you didn’t. Case closed.

  4. Holly Decker says:

    promise is definately a good alternate word.

    i am straight up abandoning potential unless i am talking to someone who really does suck at the moment.

    and i have definately felt that way before… when i get to the top… i aint thankin’ a single math teacher. ;)

  5. Maureen says:

    I’m sorry you have had such a bad experience with your professors. I actually liked all of my writing professors except one. The only one I didn’t like was, oddly, my advisor. She thought I was a “good writer” but gave me bad grades on papers and then tried to convince me not to get a double major in science because of one bad chemistry grade. I’m glad I didn’t listen to her. I really think it just depends on the personalities of the people involved but I think the best thing to do is listen to the people who are willing to give you constructive criticism instead of a buch of BS about potential.

  6. Whitney says:

    I hate to tell you but I think its the same with all professors. When I would do projects for Interior Design I had a teacher who never gave me the grade I deserved because she would judge it by her own opinion and if she would put it in her house. Which isnt fair at all because what if that wasnt her style of room. I completely understand what you are feeling. But if it helps I love to read what you write and would give you an A everytime.

  7. HeatherPride says:

    I know this pain. When I first entered college I was a theatre major. This lasted for about half a semester, when I had my first theatre class and the professor (A Ph.D., no less. As if there should ever be a Ph.D. for ACTING. A Ph.D. in acting says to me, I AM AN UNEMPLOYED ACTOR) kept giving me low scores. Because I was not “blooming and withering” properly. Anyway, the problem with anything artistic and creative is that it’s impossible to judge it objectively, don’t you think? So your style isn’t her style and she’s never going to like it because she doesn’t “get it”. It’s the nature of the creative beast, Camille. Don’t sweat it. Just pass the class and move on to the next prof. Maybe he/she will get it. I think you’re fabulous. (and not potentially fabulous, either)

  8. anna says:

    One reason I couldn’t stand English, or anything or the subjective for that matter, is b/c I hated that my grade was based on an opinion, not a fact. Hello math and logic. :)

    I had to take ONE uppder division English class and it turned out I had an awesome professor. She was encouraging and critical all at the same time. And I felt, for a brief semester, that English wasn’t all that bad.

    Anyway, I think potential implies more that a person has not reached their peak of greatness. You are somewhere in the midst of developing into something greater. It doesn’t mean you are worthless, just not at your peak. Shouldn’t that be inspiring? Because if you were at your peak, where would you go from here?

  9. jami says:

    wow, you have had a lot of long comments.
    This post was so funny…maybe you weren’t wanting a funny feeling…but I couldn’t help but smile the whole time.
    Camille, I think you are awesome now, and I am sure that someday (as most people do get better the older they are) you will be even MORE awesome.
    I don’t think to high of University teachers. Neither does Spencer, and Spencer is the smartest, nicest guy ever. SO it must be true if Spencer thinks it

  10. niki says:

    oh, the beauty of ‘english’… my sister has said so many times that she would take a math class over an english class any day for the sole reason of the grading scale. math is straight forward. math doesn’t have an opinion. you either know it or you don’t. english is just the opposite. it is all about opinion. and guess what…all you have to do is pass. who cares what the teacher thinks or if you get an ‘a’ or ‘c’. when you become a writer, all that matters is the opinion of your readers and let me tell ya, you already have a great following that loves the way you write. our opinion matters. we think you have ‘promise’.

  11. Christal says:

    as always very well written!! Seriously I love reading your blog!! {I’m making mine short cause its embarrassing that I don’t know how to write very well!!} hope your having a better day!! ttys

  12. Lindsay says:

    i LOVE your new blog font, it looks so beautiful, and almost makes it easier on my eyes to read. but that’s just me, and i’m weird.

    but one day, just think…
    you will be famous and get to tell all your old professors to shove it. (and i will get to tell everyone that i know you in real life.)

  13. Anonymous says:

    …to declare generously. Split infinitive. Come on, English major. And where’s the props for your loving sister? That’s what I’d like to know…

  14. jeff says:

    My best advice; consider the people testing you into some sort of accreditation as just people, not older, not your mom, just people of independent thought. Believe in yourself.
    Potential…i know..weak sentiment. Tell her she looks super in whatever fave colour she wears.
    That might not help your grade though.

  15. kate lines says:

    i agree.
    a can of black spray paint might do me a little good, too.

  16. kate lines says:

    oh, and if you get a mini, can we share it?

  17. Holly Decker says:

    ooooooooooooooo… a new layout???

  18. EverybodyNose says:

    A FREAKING MEN! I’M SOOOO SICK OF BEING TOLD THAT I’M NOT LIVING UP TO MY FULL POTENTIAL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    BTW, missed reading your blog while I was out of town this weekend. : (

  19. Carmen says:

    I like the new look! Nice. I also like mini’s. If you get one I will have to come for a ride.

  20. Alicia says:

    Ooh, I LOVE the new look of your blog. Sorry I haven’t been very good about commenting lately. Rest assured that I’m still reading and loving your humor, spunk, and excellent writing. (I’m sure you were up at night worrying about whether I was reading or not–now you can sleep. You’re welcome.)

    Also, I’ve never been much of a fan of “potential” because it doesn’t really mean anything. Lame.

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