“You have a lot of potential.”
Anyone ever said that to you? A lot of my high school teachers told me this. At the time, it kind of sounded ok, I mean, compared to what other people were saying about me. Then I got older. Not all at once, but rather slowly. And I started to realize that this wasn’t a very helpful comment.
I tried to define the comment. That’s what older people do. They like to define things, to draw a nice, little mental box and then define something so they can stick that now-concrete thing in the box, put a label on it, and then defend that label to the death at any social gathering where there is an abundance of alcohol.
I thought of batteries. They have potential energy. That’s a good thing when your lights go out. Batteries sit in the drawer and wait silently and uncomplaining until you need them. Of course, if you never need them, you will probably forget that the flashlight is in the drawer and when you move in a few years, you will find leaked acid all over those important receipts you kept hidden away.
I thought of fossil fuels. They are ripe with potential energy. They take millions of years to form and are essential to mankind’s existence. Of course, when man uses up all the fuels, which should be in about 30 years or so, the world will come to a screeching halt and revert back to medieval chaos like in Mad Max, where guys who wear thongs shoot bunny rabbits in the desert.
I thought of springs. When they are compressed, they have a lot of potential energy. They help our cars ride smoother and make sure our office chairs retain their original position after we lean way back in them. They also help Tiggers lead a fulfilling and productive life. Of course, they can also press deep into your rib cage at night and cause you to not get a good night’s sleep, be late to work the next morning, lose your job, and cause you to be homeless inside of two months because you haven’t a penny in savings.
I thought of a weak nuclear force acting on the baryon charge, otherwise known as nuclear potential energy. But I didn’t contemplate this idea because I had just copied and pasted the sentence from Wikipedia. It doesn’t actually make sense to me.
I thought of bows and arrows. They have potential energy and they help hunters kill things. That’s good. Killing things. Of course, if you don’t know what you’re doing and shoot a bow incorrectly, you can end up with a huge bruise and welt on the inside of your forearm. And when you can’t hold back the tears, the other hunters will laugh at you. Or so I’ve heard.
I thought of chemical energy. No, really, I did. Chemistry is responsible for pharmaceuticals. We can take pills to help us be more unipolar, to stay awake all night and study for exams, to examine alternate realities at outdoor music events, and to fight off infections we might incur as a result of attending said events. Of course, your drinking buddies could get you to eat three packs of Mentos and then funnel a two liter diet coke, which would cause you to projectile vomit and then suffer a collapsed lung. Or so I’ve heard.
Then I thought of gravitational energy. I thought of that boulder sitting atop the curved cliff that they show you in all the text books. The boulder just sits there and obeys the laws of inertia. It’s probably scared of heights. And it probably can’t see what’s behind it, because it’s a boulder. So it’s forced to sit there, frightened beyond reason at the chasm before it, and always wondering who is about to sneak up from behind and shove it over that cliff. Dreadful thing if you ask me. Such a graphic representation to convey to an impressionable teenager.
But I realize now the subtle hints they were giving me. That one day they would sneak up behind me and push me to my death. I know they are out there with their PHD’s and such, in the shadows, waiting for the right opportunity to transfer my peaceful potential into a flailing juggernaut of kinetic downfall.
So I wait.