Why I think “Impossible” Is One Of The Most Limiting Words To The Human Experience

Photo by Martin Wyall on Unsplash

According to the Oxford Learner’s Dictionaries, “impossible” is defined as “that cannot exist or be done; not possible.” This word stems from the latin word ingratus (unpleasant, disagreeable) and possibilis (that may exist, that may be done). Together they form the latin word “impossiblis,” which later in the 14th century became part of the French language as “impossible”. Same form is now used in the English language. My dislike for this word stems from the fact it does not truly capture the experience of being human or the evolutionary experience of humans as a species — it is counter to that. However, this singular word has held a lot of us hostage into not becoming our fullest potential. When I look back at my life, this word limited my imagination of the future ahead of me. I am sure it did for you too.

I was recently watching King Richard — the biopic that showcases how the William sisters came to be the greatest of all times in tennis. It was primarily due to the passionate, disciplined, and determined force of their father Mr. Richard Williams, whose vocabulary did not include the word “impossible”. In his mind, the world was malleable like clay and the right plan could mold it into something incredible. His vision for his daughters was sorted as possible — defined as “able to be done; within the power or capacity of someone or something.” Watching the movie, I recollected my journey to America, when my mom applied for a Visa and naysayers would tell me she could not do it or that I was too low class to be accepted into the country. Yet, here I am living the impossible future that I was told could not happen.

We squander time worrying about fears born out of the imaginings of an impossible conditioned mind. A mind conditioned only to see limitations rather than seeing the universe of possibilities all around it.

When I look back at human history and discovery, I see a history of possibilities rather than impossibilities.The idea of fire was once impossible, building pyramids, migrating out of caves to a home, and flying was once limited only to aerial locomotive animals like birds, insects etc. We as a society created a vicious circle of limitations. We let the adversity set by societal structures, opinions, and norms determine who we become rather than breaking down those barriers and molding the world we want to see. The life we want and the world we want to live in, is tied to the antithesis of societal opinion of what is impossible.

There is nothing impossible about being human or the human experience (except perhaps living forever). From the day we are conceived to the day we die and the myriad of experiences in between, it is all a game of possibilities. Our lives are an accumulation of possibilities. Think of the last time you thought you could not accomplish something but you did or that you wouldn’t be where you are today and yet here you are. Think of how even more glorious achievements are compared to what we imagined them being. Life turns out to be more than what we bargained for. In the end everything works out so good. Growing up in Cameroon, the idea of America was an experience only to be felt through films and international news from the British Broadcast Corporation (BBC). It was never where my imagination thought was possible — it had been conditioned to only see within the wooden walls I lived in. Yet I craved for more and understood at my core it was always possible for me to realize more than my present experience. It is this tenacity coupled with the will to be better that has driven me to where I am today.

The sperm meeting the egg to form you was an enactment of possibility. You snuggled in the womb for 9 months, surviving your birth and being alive to this moment has all been an experience of possibilities. A few centuries ago, birth was very deathly for women (still very much a reality for black women). We squander time worrying about fears born out of the imaginings of an impossible conditioned mind. A mind conditioned only to see limitations rather than seeing the universe of possibilities all around it.

Pessimism is a sister to Impossible. Pessimism is defined as “a tendency to see the worst aspect of things or believe that the worst will happen; a lack of hope or confidence in the future.” The lack of confidence or hope is what leads to the seed of impossibilities being planted. That is why I believe pessimistic people have an advanced case of the “impossible disease.”

I am certain Michael Jordan at some point was told it was impossible for him to become the greatest NBA player in the history of basketball. Yet he would go on to do just that. Perhaps we built the word “impossible” to humble us. A lot of us are scared of how powerful we can be. After all, we come from the same creator and big bang as the billions of galaxies that exist. We have within us the same molecular elements that stars are made of and the entire universe. Part of our DNA structure connects us to the many that came before us and will connect us to many that are to come. Such immense power lives within us. I am convinced the word “impossible” is very limiting in describing that power or the ingenuity of life in general. So, next time you think of any task as too impossible to do or any dream too big to realize — remember it is always possible for a plain yellow pumpkin to become a golden carriage.

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Churchill Ndonwie

Churchill Ndonwie

Young Professional living in NYC. Making connections and creating communities through storytelling. Host of City Living with Churchill Podcast