Like most people, this is a time of year to reflect on the personal events and accomplishments of the past 12 months. For me, it is particularly important because my birthday falls very close to New Year’s Eve, and therefore I have the distinction of turning a year older with the turn of a calendar.
Some might think it is economical to have my birthday coincide with New Year’s so that any birthday resolutions I might make would coincide with any New Year’s resolutions. That is one advantage. But I generally don’t make resolutions, per se.
That doesn’t mean that I don’t evaluate the past year, however. In fact, I feel as though I do that to a much deeper degree than many others. At least, as far as I can tell from others have shared over the years.
For most of my life, I’ve been told that I (1) had great potential or (2) didn’t live up to my potential. The former is obviously more positive than the latter, but as I look back on life, I realize that both are meant in their own ways to inspire me to achieve this potential. Honestly, I have to agree with anyone who has appraised me as underachieved in the potential department. At this time of year, especially, I wonder what that potential is and if I’ve reached it. Since I still hear those remarks from time to time (now in more coded forms, but still positive), I don’t believe I have reached that potential yet.
I find myself thinking of the many, many things I wanted to do with my life, and wanted to be. I can still do many of those, provided I am afforded the length of years I will need to accomplish them. But I feel behind.
There are those who would say that I’ve made a mark in the people I’ve helped in the newspaper business or the children I’ve taught. That is true, but I feel like I should be doing more. Ever since I was a kid, I’ve had this feeling that I should be known for something great. Perhaps it is ego, which mine is big, or perhaps it is just approval-seeking-behavior. Are the two exceptionally different? I don’t know. I’ve never known. That’s what bugs me, especially now.
I look at the kids I teach, and the kids I’ve had in previous years; I look at my wife; I look at my son, and I know that these people count on me for various things. They learn from me, and I from them. It is a symbiosis, but is not something that quells that yen. For I don’t think that what tugs at me is something noble or ignoble. It is not something that would win me any international merit prizes (save for fiction). It is just something that would give me some measure of renown beyond my own circle of friends, colleagues, family, and acquaintances.
Who knows? All I know so far is I wasn’t able to achieve this mysterious potential in 2008. I don’t know what’s in store for 2009. If I reach that potential this year, great. If I do, what next? Perhaps that’s the point. Potential is something that can never be reached. Maybe it is meant to be the thing we cannot get because once we get it we stop trying.
All I know is that I feel like this world expects more from me. I hope I can live up to that expectation.