We know what we are, but know not what we may be.
Everyone has dreams. Aspirations. Desires. We expect that some or all of them will come to fruition and we march diligently into the future with expectations of such.
Those dreams catapult us into many scenarios which we might never have anticipated. They infuse us with a specific energy that enables us to weather all sorts of conditions as we propel ourselves into the future.
Even with the greatest of expectations, none of us truly know what we are made of until specific moments in life drive us to the core realization of what might truly be our greatest essence.
When life delivers an unforeseen chapter, the opportunity to rise and accelerate into what would appear to be our destiny lies before us. It is only at moments like these that the actual definition of whom we are becoming is known for certain.
At these junctures, the challenges, obstacles, and experiences give us ample opportunity to dig within and summon the sum total of our greatest inner being to take their place in the unfolding next chapter of our lives.
This aphorism comes directly from Hamlet. They are Ophelia’s words in act 4, scene 5—in which she is experiencing a mental breakdown.
Ophelia knew that she had affection for Hamlet and that she was loyal to her father, but she did not know that Hamlet would mess around with her so much, confusing her — telling her in one moment to “get thee to a nunnery” and in the next requesting to sit at her feet.
This particular line definitely seems to echo the theme of uncertainty that pervades the play. Both Ophelia and Hamlet are acutely aware of, and tormented by, their present selves but are anxious about the vast and unknowable potentials of their futures. This uncomfortable uncertainty drives Ophelia to madness and Hamlet to procrastinate his quest for revenge.
Separate from its use in the play, I have always appreciated this particular aphorism as foundational to how I have always viewed my own particular future. We are so certain that everything is what it is. But I think it is safer to allow for the fact that we have far greater potential than we might give ourselves credit for. I think it is prudent to allow for the opportunity to grow far beyond that which we are projecting and therefore become much more than we might have ever imagined.