I was told so often as a young adult how much “potential” I had. I was pushed into the advanced classes in High School. I took master degree courses my first year at the University because I didn’t want to be bored. At age 20 I met with members of our Nation’s congress and the Israeli Knesset. At age 21 I actually sat in the President’s chair in the Oval Office as part of a special tour of the White House given for “Up and Coming Young Politicians”. I was the only one with the courage to take the seat when it was offered. I commented as I sat down, “It’s about time a woman sat here”. That was almost 30 years ago and still no woman has taken the chair.
I was meant to do something BIG with my life. I was meant to do something big, find a big partner to share it with, have wonderful children who would be healthy and happy and well brought up. That is what seemed to be expected of me. We should be getting ready now to meet our grown kids at our beach house in Bethany for a long weekend where their Dad would tell them how proud he was of them and how much he still adored his brilliant, beautiful wife after all these years.
Instead I live alone with my dog. Two failed marriages behind me. No particular successes to share. I have no kids, no beach house, and barely enough money to pay my bills. I work for a not for profit organization that does invaluable work that America pays lip service to but where most of our workers barely make above poverty level.
I don’t know when it happened, where it went downhill, when I stopped being one of the best and the brightest and just became another tale of unfulfilled potential. I wonder if I could go back to that one moment, that turning point, would I make a different decision. If I got a chance for a do over would I take a different turn that would have me writing the great American novel while raising wonderful children with a loving, supportive man who thinks the world of me?
Was it falling in love with the wrong man and then holding on too long? Was it making the wrong career moves? Geographical moves?
No matter, for there are no do overs. I’m a survivor but I don’t know how much more survivor I have in me. I have tried desperately to rise up from ever y set back. I have mourned the deaths of those I loved and carry them with me daily. I have done my best to move on from a 20 year relationship that felt liked it was ruined in an instant. I told myself, as all my belongings went up in flames, that they were just things, not relationships, and relationships are all that really matters. I have survived breast cancer, I have cried my way through the shingles and the other ravages of aging and through it all I can’t help thinking, where did all that often spoken of potential go?
Was it ever really there? How did I fail to harness it? Is it too late at this age to dig deep and find some flailing potential to build on?