1. capable of being or becoming
2. a latent excellence or ability that may or may not be developed
3. someone or something that is considered a worthwhile possibility
This week I will have the opportunity to discuss my students’ progress with their parents and as always I have promised myself to not, NOT use the phrase “he/she is not living up to his/her potential”. I heard that over and over at conferences with my son’s teacher. (No, he is not going to disown me for this.) He was and is a “lazy genius”. He has superb language skills and an amazing memory, plus an understanding of how things work. Unfortunately that last bit of knowledge applies equally to technology, nature, economics, politics, and school systems. He used his skills to memorize lectures, pass tests, and talk his way out of the majority of his written work. He once wrote a term paper on the topic, “Why I Should Not Have to Write a Term Paper”. Thankfully the teacher didn’t give him a passing grade because he couldn’t cite any references!
I explain all of this in order to tell you he still grew up to be a great guy! He is kind, resourceful, smart, funny, and a loyal friend. People like him. He isn’t a doctor or a rocket scientist or president, but I’m still proud of him. Perhaps he didn’t live up to his potential. But I don’t know what his potential was, or is. He is still young and has a lot of living to do. Who am I to say that this isn’t the exact path that God intended for him? Did I live up to my potential?
In high school I was voted the most likely to write the “great American novel”. Perhaps I still will, but I certainly expected to do it before now. I also expected to go directly from high school to college to teaching. Had I done so I would have taught high school English. Would that have been the best path for me? Apparently not, because God sent me on a detour.
I write and talk often about life being a journey. I don’t understand why people, especially women, assume they should have so much control over their own trip. Shoulda, coulda, woulda seems to be the constant mantra of women, as though we can really choose our own path. Actually we only choose one step at a time. And we really don’t know where that step will lead!!
Potential- I guess it comes from the knowledge of our “free will”- the idea that we can set up a life plan and stick with it until we reach some future goal of wonderfulness. But if you really examine “free will” it usually involves choosing between “a” and “b” or “x” and “y”, NOT “a through z”. We are born into circumstances beyond our control, with genes that cannot be changed, to parents we don’t choose. We are immediately set on a path unknown toward a goal unknown. I’m still not sure what my potential is or if I’ve reached it. But I’m certainly enjoying the journey and I wouldn’t change any of the detours that led to here.