Tonight, I watched Good Will Hunting. A brilliant screenplay directed by Gus Van Sant released in 1997. That’s 19 years ago, so don’t fire your calculators at me.
It wasn’t the first time I’d seen the film, but this time something stuck with me. No, not the classic scene where Robin Williams tells Matt Damon that all the abuse that he suffered wasn’t his fault. That’d be too obvious for my life.
The scene that stuck with me was when Matt Damon and Ben Affleck are doing demolition together. It goes a little something like:
Damon: Oh, come on! What? Why is it always this? I mean, I fuckin' owe it to myself to do this or that. What if I don't want to?
Affleck: No. No, no no no. Fuck you, you don't owe it to yourself man, you owe it to me. Cuz tomorrow I'm gonna wake up and I'll be 50, and I'll still be doin' this shit. And that's all right. That's fine. I mean, you're sittin' on a winnin' lottery ticket. And you're too much of a pussy to cash it in, and that's bullshit. 'Cause I'd do fuckin' anything to have what you got.
Call me pompous but, looking back on my life, I saw myself in Will Hunting (Matt Damon) in that scene.
I’m far from the sharpest lightbulb in the candy store, but I couldn’t count on Vishnu’s fingers the amount of times in my life I’ve heard the sentence:
“You have so much potential, but you’re letting it all go to waste.”
In school, teachers were frustrated on a regular basis with the kid who could tell you anything you’d like to know about stem cell research, but wouldn’t take 5 minutes to complete a homework assignment on the definition of a cell.
For a kid who writes articles for a living, you wouldn’t expect him to have failed his freshman English class. And neither did my professor. In fact, I had a short conversation with that professor just last week.
Paraphrasing, he said that he would see short bursts of potential and inspiration in me, and took it as a personal failure that he wasn’t able to draw it out with any consistency.
Seeing a pattern? If not, I’ll spell it out anyways.
Selfishness. In all honesty, I was very selfish as a person. What with the traumatic events of my childhood, one could sit all day and debate whether the selfishness was justified or even necessary, but it was there.
You see, in a world of strong-willed individuals looking to make their own ways in the world, sometimes the aspect of community is lost. But when I think about the community I’ve had over the last 19 years of my life, I can’t ignore how many people I owe my journey to.
Sure, my life is my own, and I am free to make my own decisions about it. But, I’d like for you to show me a tree that grows without roots.
The energy that has been put into my life has nurtured me into the person I am today. That includes not just the love and compassion, but also the suffering and heartbreak I’ve experienced, as a plant needs sunlight just as much as it needs dirt.
I certainly owe the expression of my passion to myself, but my journey always has been so much bigger than me.
But you? You are also a tree with roots. If you’re reading this article, even I am part of your journey, which means that so is everyone who has influenced me (though I wouldn’t say that you owe me your success).
Whether you’re a layman or a super genius, you have your own passions to delve into. You should let them shine for your own sake, but also for the sake of the lives who have influenced you, and those you will influence.
I’m sure there are others of you out there who’ve been called out on your “wasted potential”, some of you with less access to your dreams than others. Still, there are always ways to apply your talents, especially with the Internet that allows you to connect with the entire world.
Still, some of you may feel you owe nothing to others, or that you don’t wish to pursue anything for the sake of people you could care less about.
Pursue your passions too. Whether you harness the power of creation or destruction, you still have power. Use it well, and use it wisely. Your roots run deep; allow the tree to truly flourish.
To whom do you owe your success? The people on your journey? Yourself?
Neither, unless you define for yourself what it means to be successful, and then live it.
Please put any thoughts, questions, or feedback here and I'll respond as soon as I can.