I’ve been thinking about the future of late. Primarily because my overseas bestie asked me if I thought I was going to stay where I am after my mum (who lives in a nearby town) has gone (and yes, god forbid); and because my aforementioned mother watched something on TV about Australian women not having enough superannuation and has decided I will have to live in my car in years to come.
I actually have some thoughts about the ‘long term’ but they’re for another time because today I wanted to talk about my legacy. Or perhaps… my fears about my lack thereof.
I partially blame Kelly Exeter and Brooke McAlary… as the concept of one’s ‘legacy’ is something they’ve talked about in their Let It Be podcast a few times.
It’s something that has also (increasingly) hit home over the past decade.
The great use of life is to spend it on something that will outlast it. —William James
I was in my early 40s before I accepted I might not meet the man of my dreams and have the life I’d expected: kids, white picket fence. A dog. Okay, no dog, cos too much work. So I tried to get pregnant myself. Birds and bees aside.
A few years later I called it quits. And for the first time I was faced with the realisation that the life I was living was going to be my forever life. Going to work. Working. Coming home. Going to bed. Getting up. Going to work. Rinse repeat. I was 43 or 44 and tried to imagine another 20yrs of long work days, commuting and perhaps an occasional outing with friends on a weekend (when I wasn’t in recovery-from-work mode).
Stars and planets aligned – well, my father passed away which was just as confronting as a life without my ‘own’ family, so when the redundancy option arose, I took it and seachanged. (And yes, I’m allowed to use it as a verb.)
That’s all very boring background information and if I was reviewing this post I’d say it was WAAAAY too much backstory. But – I promise – I’m getting to my point.
Last year my mum had termites in her house and had to completely clear out a room. It led to a bit decluttering of sorts. And a realisation for her, about how much she’d accumulated in the 50+years of living there. Of course the clean-up required her to go through photographs and documents. Treasured books and belongings.
She put some things aside for my brother and my niece and asked me if I wanted this or that. I’d moved myself several times so culled stuff on several occasions. As mum proffered old photographs, my early school books and even my birth records I realised there was no point in me taking them. I didn’t suddenly ‘want’ them after 40-odd years and it occurred to me I had no one to give them to (no one who’d would want them after I’d gone).
I am reminded of this when people talk about their legacy. Unless they’ve got buildings or libraries named after them, they’ll usually refer to their children. Their grandchildren and so forth.
In my case the buck…. or the DNA, ends with me.
It’s been both freeing and depressing. This realisation. The fact that no one will want / need my stuff is weird. Sad. But at the same time, it means I don’t have to hold on to things that perhaps no longer have meaning for ME.
I can live a more disposable life than most people. I can – if I could – live in the moment.
Of course I realise one’s legacy isn’t just about one’s DNA or loved ones. For many it’s about being remembered. About making a difference. In some way.
That is your legacy on this Earth when you leave this Earth: how many hearts you touched.—Patti Davis
I’m the sort of person who looks at old gravestones and is saddened they’re all that are left of those who’ve walked before us. Will someone, one day, stumble across the headstone of Deborah Cook, shrug and walk on?
And I realise this is (also, again) such a #firstworldproblem… pondering my legacy and the footprint I leave for future generations or lives.
If you would not be forgotten as soon as you are dead, either write something worth reading or do something worth writing. —Benjamin Franklin
Do you ever ponder your ‘legacy’? How would you define it? Am I overthinking as usual?
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