Last night I found myself giving the dreaded parental lecture “Live up to your potential” to my two oldest sons.  They have been in school for a total of seven days and I have already dealt with homework despair, procrastination and apathy.  The thought of doing this song and dance for another 173 days makes me queasy, tense and angry.  And my boys could sense that last night as I heard the words of my parents spew forth from my mouth.  “I am not upset that you didn’t get a perfect grade, I am upset that you didn’t follow directions” and “You are not giving it your best effort, you are doing just enough to get by”.  WOW!  Now, this is not the first time I have repeated nuggets of wisdom from my Mom and Dad (I have been saying, “Dry your face or I’ll give you something to cry about” for quite a few years) but it was the first time I realized I was repeating words that I NEVER EVER wanted to say to my own children.  Not because the words aren’t true or necessary, but because I have absolutely NOTHING to back them up with.  Because honestly, at forty, I haven’t lived up to my potential.  I have not put forth my best effort since …. well, maybe third grade?  Even though, giving natural birth (with the aid of mild sedatives) to three children did require my absolute best effort at those times.   At some point, one of these boys will be brave enough (that would be Luke) to call me out on this.  “Excuse me, Mom.  Where is your college degree?  Where are the pictures of all the great opportunities you took advantage of because you persevered through school, hell and high water? Where is your bank account statement showing the great profits earned with all of your hard work?”  Yep, that day is coming.  With Luke’s common sense and fearlessness, that day will be here before he starts first grade!

That really doesn’t give me much time to prepare a reasonable, somewhat honest answer.  I look at the pictures above and I see my dreams and goals shine back at me.  I see that sparkle in my eyes and know that was my future that glowed so brightly.    Certainly my dreams transformed as I grew older and my life circumstances changed, but back then I never stopped believing that I would achieve my dreams.  From being a model, to  a sports broadcaster, to a lawyer and ultimately a television producer, I always KNEW I would accomplish my goals.  I was so full of passion and motivation, I never considered that I would encounter obstacles on my chosen path.  At some point, that changed for that girl above.  The light in my eyes dimmed a bit.  The smile was forced when I did choose to smile. The “world of opportunity” was no longer in my young, eager hands.  I cannot pinpoint an exact moment or event that caused me to become cynical, distrustful and defeated.  I believe it happened over a period of time during my college years but the why it happened no longer bothers me as much as the why I LET it happen!   I made choices that took choices out of my control so I could claim no responsibility for the direction my life took.  I look back now and I see the loss of so much potential!!  But how do I put my experience into a perspective that my boys will understand?  How do I teach them that they must believe in themselves because everyone else’s belief in them will not be enough to sustain them when life gets tough?  How do I explain to them that I don’t want them to watch five or fifteen years of their life pass them by without weaving new dreams?

Let me clarify — I am not disappointed in my current life.  I am so freakin’ fortunate to have a great marriage, the most awesome sons, a supportive extended family and a bunch of crazy, loyal friends.  I wouldn’t change ANY of that!!  I would change the fact that somewhere along the way — from college until now — I lost myself.  I forgot what makes ME tick.  And quite honestly, I didn’t think that was even important.  I let my dreams get caught up in the web of life and those dreams got wrapped up so tightly with loss, depression and fear that I gave up on untangling them.

That’s not exactly an image I want to give my boys about their future.  I want to be like Charlotte (of Charlotte’s Web) and weave words of hope for them.  Maybe I can tell them that the college degree, fancy job title or huge bank account will not guarantee them happiness. That happiness comes from accomplishment — whether it is solving a geometry problem, writing a flawless five-page paper about dystopian fiction or striking out a batter — it is a sense of pride that you achieved something that you set out to do.  But telling them isn’t enough.  I must show them.

I am no longer that girl pictured above.  I am the woman pictured below.  The one that is learning that I may no longer have the desire to obtain a college degree or work a stress-filled job, but I have the ability to create new dreams.  I have the love of four men (three young ones and a more mature one) that look at me as if I can reposition the sun if I choose to do so.  And I have talent, creativity and yes, even passion that can help me achieve my new desires.