I was driving home from visiting a friend tonight, and passed one of the local high schools. The message board below the school’s sign announced the name of one of their students as having won a World Youth championship something or other.
My instant thought was – I’d like my name displayed like that, to be recognized for a stunning feat or achievement. And that’s when I realised, it never has been. I am nobody special. I was a good student most of the way through school, but never absolute top of the class. I’ve never broken any records, done anything truly amazing, been abnormal in any way really. Sure I had acheivements and accomplishments in my own right throughout – but nothing that wasn’t a totally run-of-the-mill thing. I’m not an athlete, I’m not a world chess player or a prodigy musician.
So, okay, no big news flash, right? But in a way it really was. My parents, like any doting parents building up their child, raised me ‘knowing’ I was special and gifted and wonderful, with a healthy dose of responsibility bestowed upon me. I was Intelligent, I was Gifted, and thus surely I would Become Somebody. It worked great in primary school – I figured I was the best – or at least among the best – and that was, of course, my natural position.
So when I grew up a bit, and more was required of me, and I learned to think for myself and to question, I saw myself as decidedly average. And ever since then I have believed that I am a tragic let-down, as I obviously haven’t come close to fulfilling my potential. Which, maybe, is true. Maybe every ‘normal’ child really has the potential to become the next Einstein, Picasso, Thorpedo or similar. But all I’ve seen is that I am not standing out, I am not excelling above the rest of my peer group, I am just humming along fairly smack dab in the middle. Of my graduating class, one of my classmates works for Congress. I’m not in active touch with her but I’ve always held her as an example of where I ‘should’ be. Not that I want to work for Congress – but that I should have a similarly high-flying, top-of-my-field job. Thus, my staying home with my very average husband, raising children in a barefoot but not pregnant type situation was clearly me wasting my life. I have always reckoned that I am the epitome of a waste of potential.
Tonight I realised I’ve never had my name in lights. I have not tragically fallen from any platform. The only platform I’ve ever been on has been attached to my shoes – and when I fell from that, I tossed the shoes out and bought Crocs.