If disappointment were a currency, the people who have believed in me along the way would be driving European sports cars on the way to their waterfront villas.
My entire life story up until recently has been one of failed potential, like a first round pick that just never panned out.
Without me, my mother could have long since had enough money to move to a beach somewhere, reading a library of novels and sipping the finest fermented grapes. My dad could have retired sooner, and … well he’d probably still be the same, just with more money.
But they don’t have those things. They worked hard to give me some privileges they never had. By rights, they shouldn’t have. I graduated high school near the absolute bottom of my class. They should have asked my classmates, I still remember the disbelief they expressed just within my earshot that someone like me managed a distinguished writing portfolio. Like many draft busts, I never worked for the things that would have made me as special as my folks saw me. I got by, barely, on the gifts bestowed to me.
But believe my parents did. They saved tens-of-thousands of dollars to send me to college. I didn’t have the grades to go, but my ACT score was high enough that the first university I applied to took a chance on my potential. That’s literally what my academic adviser said.
Talk about killing two birds with one stone. I wasted the tuition money, dropped out before I came close to a degree and told myself I didn’t need to go to college. I’m really good at this writing thing, everything will work out. It didn’t.
With no prospects and less money, I moved back home. I got a job in the semi-pros, stuffing ads into the local newspaper at part-time for minimum wage. From there, I found out what rock bottom was.
It took hitting that point to realize that, though it hurt to admit, there was no magic solution. I wasn’t just going to write a best-seller or get a job writing without the gifts I had squandered. It took a while, but I had finally started to grow up. The problem was, it felt like I was too late.
I needed someone to believe in me, even though they had no reason to. Even though my history suggested it was a bad idea. Even though I was likely already a bust, a sad tale of a potentially promising prospect that never made it to the big leagues.
Here’s the thing though: someone did.
I still don’t know exactly why. Maybe the journalists at the paper just needed a warm, cheap body to fill a seat. Maybe my supervisor convinced the editor that I could be worth something, that I had a spark that just wouldn’t die. Maybe shooting the breeze on the dock over a smoke convinced that editor that I had the capacity for the gig.
Whatever the reason, I found myself working in the editorial department, surrounded by people who had worked for years to get a degree I never earned. I had been called up, if not to the big leagues, at least to a professional organization.
I wasn’t going to fail this time, or at least I’d go out swinging.
Six years later, I still can’t say I’ve lived up to the promise my mother saw in me. Then again, I could be using $100 bills to light up the finest Dominican cigar and she’d only say if I applied myself I could be smoking Cubans. I don’t know that I’ll ever be in the big leagues, but at least I have begun to realize some of that potential.
Whatever I may accomplish in the end, none of it would have happened if someone hadn’t believed in me when there was no reason for them to.
Having faith in people is hard. I get that. I know what it feels like to believe in someone and get burned. I know the pain that causes, because I’ve been on both sides of that coin.
Be it for career paths, relationships, sobriety, or whatever else, don’t stop believing. You never know what something as little as your faith might accomplish in someone else.
You never know who might need you to believe in them, and that’s this week’s small victory.
(JESSE JONES is the editor of The Eagle Post, a member of the New Era Media Group. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for the full text of the following disclaimer: Do not take the words of this column to mean that you should start believing in someone who has purposefully hurt you. Abusive behavior, physical, emotional or otherwise, does not deserve your faith, belief or anything else.)