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The Best Way to Leave a Legacy is Not to Worry if You're Leaving a Legacy

For whatever reason, lately I’ve been thinking a lot about the idea of leaving a legacy. I’m “only” 43 and am in excellent health, but my mortality surfaces at times. I wonder who will remember me, what they’ll remember, and if I’m doing enough to leave my fingerprints on hearts.

It’s human to wonder, “What does this all mean? What’s my purpose, and how am I any different or special than any other masses of atoms walking down the street?”

We all have that innate desire to know we’re seen and fitting some part of the big confusing puzzle and our time spent here was purposeful, and remnants of our lives will outlive us in others.

The truth is most of us will not be remembered by crowds of people once we’re gone. We won’t leave behind a legacy that changes the world in an outward, obvious way.

No statues will be put up in our honor.

No one will quote us from that brilliant speech we made on top of a hill somewhere.

Our legacies will most likely be more of a whisper that few will carry within them.

As I age I feel my hunger to reach a pinnacle of notoriety and legacy-leaving-status less and less, and at first I thought maybe I was just getting lazy or disgruntled and not setting my goals high enough. I figured I was giving up, but I think it’s more than that. I’m becoming wiser and more chill.

My hunger for making my life matter hasn’t gone away, but it has changed drastically.

I don’t want to focus or wonder what I’m leaving behind when my focus should be on today.

I simply just want to be immersed in every moment. I want to connect and tap into all the moments, good and bad, and to put both my feet in everything that comes my way and invite it all in.

This morning I had one of those moments where you step outside your body and view your life as an outsider looking in. My rooster of a son came stumbling out into the living room and asked for his usual hugs and snuggles. He’s 8 now, so you’d better believe I eat the crap out of this while I can, okay?

He has a blue blanket that he cocoons himself in, and I call him a snuggly blueberry. When he asked for some snuggles, I goofily skipped into the living room, putting a hand above my eyes like a visor saying, “Now where did that snuggly blueberry go? Is he here?”

I looked in the bookshelf. Nope.

I looked under the coffee table. Nope. No snuggly blueberry to be found.

I looked on the recliner. “Ah ha! There he is!” I swooped down onto the chair to lay on the morning ritual of snuggles, and that’s when the realization hit me. I saw this look of love, connection and admiration on his face that told me THIS is it. These silly little rituals and moments of simple connection ARE the legacy I want to leave.  

I bent over and smelled the fresh sleep on his skin probably a bit too long, but he didn’t squirm away and only closed his eyes and smiled.

These moments won’t be recognized by the masses as award-winning or world-changing, but they’ll be recognized by those close to me as they move through their lives.

I selfishly want one day for my kids and their grown children to be sitting around talking about me and how I made them feel loved in how we held hands before dinner or in the silly notes I left in their lunchboxes. I want them to remember that music often moved me to tears and my loud guffaw of a laugh was contagious. That alone would make me know I lived life well and my “legacy” was accomplished quietly and deeply.

And these small legacies aren’t limited to parenthood. I want to present the best me to every interaction and relationship whether I’m asking a stranger if she’s having a good day or taking my time with people in my own workplace and serving them patiently and kindly when it’s tempting to not give it my all.

The fabrics of a legacy are sewn each day in very small yet deep ways in how we simply show up and see each other.

If each day we’re focused on what legacy we’ll one day leave, we’ll miss out on these important moments of today. Today did I take my time and see people? Today did I breathe before I was a jerkwad to someone?

If you can lay your head down at night and feel you tackled life with an open chest and alert mind, then you’re living life and what you leave behind is being planted each day and your legacy is a nice added bonus to the real prize:  a life fully lived.

And a life fully lived will surely live on in others and how they live their lives as a result of how you’ve touched them. I’d say that’s the best legacy of all.


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