I was one of those kids told by grown-ups that I wasn’t “living up to my potential.” At the time, I wasn’t sure what ‘potential’ was, but I thought of it as balloon filled with “A’s,” awards, math skills, first place ribbons, musical talent, drawing skills, courage, popularity, and more that floated tantalizingly just beyond my grasp. I understood that all those things could be mine if I were just willing to spend more time, work harder, reach higher, and stop watching so much TV. And it seemed clear, at least to my parents and teachers that I was willfully refusing to make the effort, to seize that damn balloon, so stuffed with potential. And so the years passed and I achieved a great deal, both personally and professionally. But that “potential” cloud still hung over me like the miasma in a Victorian mystery.
But now that I am no longer working full time and should be filled with Margaret Mead’s “post-menopausal zest,” Retirement Lit reminds me that I should have the time and energy to, wait for it, fulfill my potential! I can get those awards, those A’s, hone those math skills, take piano lessons, publish the great American novel, travel to Antarctica, and make huge, meaningful, and lasting differences in everyone’s life. The sixties are just the beginning of new vistas to conquer! “…the essence of happiness [in retirement] is fulfilling [your] unique and full potential at all stages of [your] life.” (Michael Jeans- 65 Things to Do When You Retire)
So little time. So much pressure! But now I get to decide what my potential is and what I will or won’t do to “fulfill” it. I refuse to go through my sixties and beyond worrying about my damn “potential.”. What I do or don’t do will evolve organically. And nobody but me will or should care whether I am doing enough. My potential is nobody’s business, maybe not even mine. That has to be one of the benefits of getting older and wiser!