I really want to make something of myself. I know people who have. I know a guy who doesn’t quit. He works around the clock to build up his non-profit organization that he’s passionate about- all while holding down a job to support his family. Another example is my friend who almost never sits down. Not kidding. She seems to feed off of an undetectable energy and works incredibly hard to make her home warm and happy, constantly helps members of the community, hosts countless meals, and somehow has endless time to listen attentively to all sorts of people she encounters.
Another fabulous woman I know – I wish you could meet her because there’s no way to do her justice here- is incredibly generous with her time, energy, and talents. A fellow teacher, since the beginning of the year she has constantly tried to help me navigate through projects, students, parents, and colleagues. “Oh, I’ll do that” is her motto and she has quickly become my first stop when I need help at work. Peeking through her classroom window showed me I’m not unique- this lady gives to many with a full heart. Those who are close with her know that if you need a sympathetic ear, sage advice, help with cutting and pasting, or even a kosher (she’s not Jewish) snack – she provides and a relationship is built. When teaching at a public school in a “bad” neighborhood, she nearly adopted one of her young students who was neglected and abused by his parents. This might surprise you but if you knew her, it wouldn’t.
Don’t get me wrong- none of these people are saints. I’ve actually seen them when they’re not being fabulous. There’s no point in sharing their flaws but, rest assured, they exist. What distinguishes them for me is that most of the time, these people have captured something. A generosity of spirit, a strong work ethic, they’re LIVING LIFE and not just living. Thinking of them moves me off of my couch and towards real-world activity and connection.
You know the classic report card guaranteeing that a student is full of potential? That she or he would be FABULOUS if only…. Well what happens many years after the report cards have been signed and the parent/teacher conferences (strategizing about how this vague potential will be actualized) are long over? Do these little rug-rats, exploding with potential, actualize, maximize, LIVE?
Until recently, I considered my life as an extension of my childhood; I felt I was a (incredibly blessed) Youth of the Nation. It took me three years to figure out that the real Youth no longer view me as one of the Nation. Maybe it was my age, or my children, or my maturity (ok, maybe not the maturity) but clearly something changed. This is the next chapter of my life, the one where all the supposed potential unleashes…right?
Childhood and adolescence is often marked by living in the moment (hopefully joyful ones) and self-absorption. As children, we thought the world revolved around us, that our parents’ lives began when we were born, that our needs should come first. As teenagers, we just didn’t think (should I only speak for myself?). Our decisions were shaped by our whims with no forethought to consequences or aftermath. To fulfill our potential as adults, we’d have to break free of the narcissism and selfishness, simultaneously maintaining the joie de vivre that most children have in spades. For me- if not for all of us- it is that happy spirit, appreciation for life, selflessness, and ACTION that largely defines “actualizing potential”. These are the hallmarks of people who are LIVING. Like I said, I really want to make something of myself and not get stuck just potentially fabulous.