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The wave of emotion surrounding the start of a new revolution around the sun, the joy of the holidays being tempered by a significant death, and the full-on reevaluation of life that it triggers has been daunting.
There are so many things to process at the end of the year for me generally.
Layering goal setting, vision defining, living positively, and processing the impermanence of life has been truly demanding on my spirit. Experiencing a sudden death makes one consider their place in the world. Contemplating my impact on the lives of those around me has been a serious concern for me as of late.
Legacy 1: something (such as property or money) that is received from someone who has died.
Legacy 2: something that happened in the past or that comes from someone in the past.
The world seems to place great value in legacy through financial status, championing wealth and family names as key markers of having lived a successful life. Being childless and of modest means, I am left to wonder what I can leave the world with to remember me by. I have no ambition to be a millionaire, so the trade-off is that my legacy will not be tied to a trust account, property, or buildings erected in my name.
I prefer the second portion of the definition, as it places value on altruistic traits rather than financial accomplishments—not just because I do not have a lot of money, but because it just feels good to pour into other people. Being a good human is a combination of things that stay with you regardless of a financial market.
Generally speaking, as we move through life, from milestone to milestone and new experience to new experience, we know that we are making memories but rarely weigh the gravity of those events until we lose someone.
I can honestly say that my life post-divorce has called me to value people and experiences in a way that I never had before. It was as if when that relationship died and I had to revise my future and mould it into one that would produce legacy outside of children, I saw more clearly than ever the value of impacting people’s lives for the better.
I have always found a great joy in doing and being there for others, but there was something so rejuvenating in the way that others came to my aid in a time of need that lit that flame a bit brighter.
I have been many places and made so many memories with my family, friends, and their children the last several years, and I pray I have left them with something that makes them better people because they have certainly done that for me.
Everything seems so urgent, so noteworthy, and in need of my immediate attention. Life is happening every second of the day, and from the banal to the significant, I want to feel and remember it all. But a memory can only truly be felt once it becomes one, so I must slow my thoughts of preserving the moment with living in it, completely present, and allowing the memory to form so that I may cherish it.
Maybe it is because the days are currently shorter and colder.
Maybe it is because I am getting older, and my worldview is expanding.
Maybe it is because I just watched my older sister lose her lover and best friend over the holidays.
Maybe it is because I continue to peel back layers of forgiveness and pray that my decision to leave some people in my life where they are at does not harm them, while it serves me peace.
Maybe it is because I do not have the time or the means to accomplish all the wonderful things my heart desires to do for the world around me.
Whatever it is, I know that I need to make each of my actions intentional. Finding balance in living in the moment and honoring the possibility that each day that I live could be my last are a chore that often comes out of whack during the course of living.
I cannot claim to have found a magic quotient to discovering peace in the pursuit of happiness while holding reverence for the brevity of life. What I can say is that I do my very best to acknowledge the mundane details as they come because they are just as important as the big moments in our lives. From getting my coffee the perfect shade of brown in the morning, the excitement I feel when I see a deer in a field off the highway, to having a someone who does not know me so well tell me they “want to be like you when they grow up,” to waving at babies in the grocery store or celebrating birthdays, weddings, and graduations.
Every single acknowledgement matters. I take pride in talking to strangers, stretching myself to learn about things I made assumptions about, and finally learning to let people and things go gracefully when they no longer serve where I am trying to go. I want my life to be as rich and as full of as many experiences I can cram into it before I am gone—and I want to take as many as I can along with me for the ride.
I have come to understand that the primary focus of legacy should not only be material, financial, or the children one leaves behind. Perhaps, because I will leave none of those things behind. To me, the spark of my spirit, imprinted upon the hearts of those I have crossed paths with in this life, is the most important gift I feel I can leave behind. If I lead a life that inspires and challenges another human to do the same, I believe I will have led a life that truly keeps giving beyond me.
Perhaps, grappling with mortality is not the most pleasant thing to do at the end of the year or the beginning.
But I know that I do not want to wait until the end of life, or the end of another’s, to become the only time I assess how I spend my time here. We must love our lives—and those in them—fiercely because, one day, that love will be all that is left of us.
A New Year’s message from me to me:
And above all, be intentional about the essence of self that is left to live beyond you.