When Potential Isn’t Enough

By Winnie Rugamba


“Winnie, you’re going to do big things in life.” If I got a dollar every single time this was said to me, hey, I would not be sitting in Wiley College trying to get a degree, I’d probably be somewhere in the gorgeous streets of Venice, living life, but alas! Here I am.


I request you to read this with a very open mind. A lot of it will sound like I am bragging, but just stay with me and you will understand where I am going with this. Fortunately for me, I never had a rough time in school; from primary school to high school, I was able to place first to third in class. With that being said, you might think I was smart, but I just think I have a remarkable memory that was able to memorize every single detail the day before a test or exam, but please do not dare ask me a question about what I read right after the test (yes, I am one of those people). So, according to someone that I do not know, somehow if you have always done well in school, you’re automatically going to do well in life just because “education is key.” While that is a lie, it isn’t too far from the truth, either. A lot of people that did well in school do end up doing well in their adulthood, excel in their jobs, and there is nothing surprising about it because “they’ve always done well since a very young age,” which makes it a valid assumption, I guess.


Well, today, I’m in college and by God’s grace, it hasn’t been the worst. I am still able to get a couple of A’s and B’s as well as C’s whenever I forget to turn in my assignments, but apart from that I was also involved in other stuff: debate team, poetry, acting, writing, and other things that exposed me to different people and places which could be considered “impressive” considering where I’m from, I guess. Basically, I had it going for me, people told me I was going to be great, do big things, some predicted that I was going to be the minister of foreign affairs in Rwanda or the minister of gender and family promotion; others said I was going to be an amazing actress, probably walk on that red carpet one day. I’ve been told that I will publish books and many more things that were meant to be encouraging, or sometimes just people voicing their dead dreams, but whatever it is I am thankful for the hope that everyone had in me but what I got to figure out along the way is that it is easier for people to talk about the lovely parts about life but never the ugly parts.


Nobody really spoke about the barriers, hopelessness, loneliness, confusion, self-doubt, headaches, sleepless nights, the burden that comes with knowledge; no one ever told me that there will be days I will not want to wake up in the morning. In fact, I have the desire to forever be in bed. No one talked about the nights that doubt will creep in your bed and cuddle you till you fall asleep to the sound of your shattering confidence. Nobody talked about the pressure, the pressure that comes with everyone expecting you to do well—not even expecting, really, but more like watching to see where you are going to mess up even though they are your loudest cheerleaders; nobody talked about the uncertainty that comes with all the options or “opportunities,” the fear of choosing the wrong major, career, job, partner or just anything good that comes your way. Nobody told me about the reality. The reality of life.


Whatever the reason, maybe they didn’t want to scare me or discourage me from dreaming and dreaming big but facing the truth after believing in a lie your whole life doesn’t really make it easier.


So, to the kid with “ potential,” to the kid with “a bright future,” to the kid with “a full life ahead”: Yes, you are talented, you are beautiful, you are intelligent, you are confident, you are enough, you are enough, you are enough. But you will get tired. Some days you will wish people did not expect so much from you. You will wish you are allowed to take a break and cry, to miss classes once, twice, and sometimes for a whole week; you will get scared—life definitely has a way of tapping into your insecurities; you will meet people that seem prettier than you, sing better than you, write better than you, speak better than you do, work faster than you do. The trap of comparison is inevitable especially in a world that feeds off competition and measuring success in one way by whoever is setting the standards.


Some days you will be trapped in it for a while. If you are a student, for example, trust me, at some point you will HATE school, hate your classes, your professors, and want to punch your classmates. I use the word “hate” to emphasize on how strong the emotion you will feel is. You will question the education system, you will question LIFE, so many times! And the ugly truth is that you will at times be visited by suicidal thoughts (I promise I am not being dramatic).


Life will hit you from every corner and the thing is, contrary to the popular belief, it doesn’t take a tragedy to keep you in bed; it just takes life. Sometimes it happens too fast, other days it happens too slow, some days it is fair and most days it is unfair.


You will be denied opportunities that you know you deserved perhaps because of your gender, race, and sometimes just because they didn’t like you. You will meet bullies in form of people, thoughts, words, memories, or experiences. You will cry, a lot. You might develop a drinking problem just to numb the confusion; you will find things like relationships as an escape from reality just to be slapped by the very same thing.


I know this sounds dramatic, pessimistic, childish maybe or just sounds like another spoiled child venting. Whatever way you choose to take this, depends on you, I am just here to be what no one was to me and say what was never said to me.


Despite all the ugly things mentioned above though, you are still that person that was mentioned before. Everything that is beautiful about you, everything that is true and pure about you is the things that will get you through the ugly days. The love in you will conquer the hate in the world, the confidence in you will rise at your lowest of moments, the voice, the writing, the engineering, the drawing, the coloring, the painting, the eye, the accuracy, the leader, the healer, the counsellor, the magician in you will always find ways out. For some, it might take longer than others, but that is what life is.


Every human is born alone, every human being has their own time; to grow, to learn, to graduate, to work, to fall in love, to fall out of love, to succeed, and at last, to die. I say all this to wake up the spirit of calmness in you and in me. To remember that it isn’t about how fast you get to the finish line but about noticing and appreciating the leaps, strides, moments, and heart that you put in everything that you are doing. It is about patience, patience, patience. As much as “trusting the process” sounds cliche, it is the reality, sometimes you will have a moment of pause in your life or pauses at times.


So when we focus on everything outside and forget what is happening within, it is then that we get weary, tired, and confused because we have forgotten to feed the inside first. So when those draining days say hello, remember that it is OK, to just take a step back, take a nap, then try again. In a world of flaws and endless imperfections, each one of us carries the right amount of perfection required to get through it. You’re enough. I am enough, we’re all enough.


If you make it out of bed tomorrow morning and be able to do life for the day…. hey! You’re winning!


Winnie Rugamba
Winnie Rugamba