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An ad on Facebook reads:
“In living, our stories are made. In writing, our stories are remembered. Write them, lest they forget.” I like that. This is really about a life message – and communicating it.
At some point in life, we’re told, we’re supposed to care about what mark we’re leaving on the world, one that would make it remember us. At midlife, we talk about legacies – mainly about leaving one. Supposedly, up to that point, we’ve been building one. All a bit fuzzy.
So, what is a legacy?
Merriam-Webster defines it first as referring to “leaving a gift of money or personal property.” That isn’t very helpful here.
However, the second definition is more useful for our purposes: “something transmitted by or received from an ancestor or predecessor or from the past.” This definition suggests it is something that can be explicit or implicit, intentional or not.
So, our legacy could be what people think of us or what they remember us for. Our reputation, perhaps, what people think of when our name comes up in a conversation. You know, “he was kind, generous, patient, etc.”, descriptions that will likely not be associated with my name.
If I am to leave a legacy, call it a life message, it would seem better that I make it explicit. Getting your name on a hospital might mean you care about the community’s well-being, but it is even more unclear what the naming of a street after you might mean.
Here are eight reasons to preserve it in a blog:
1) It is our space to say what we mean. So often in the noise of life, we say or do things that are not well understood – perhaps even to ourselves. A blog allows us to state our views, our positions on life and society, our behaviors, our values and principles, and to pass along our logic for life and living.
2) It provides us a place to clarify in our own minds what key events, choices and actions from our lives meant to us. And edit it, as needed. Often it takes us awhile to sort out why we are who we are, do what we do (or did), or say what we say (or said). Perhaps we really never do understand the why entirely, but it is worth the effort. Getting to know ourselves seems an important part of leaving an account of who we are to others.
Recently, I had a conflict with my wife. Imagine that. In the process of working through it, she asked me why I react a certain way when a situation like this happens. I struggled to see into it clearly.
It often is not easy to understand our own responses. They’re like reflexes that are triggered by an event and followed by a sequence that can be quite a mystery to ourselves, and certainly to others. It may take some time to draw that out. I find writing helps me work through these tangled webs. It also requires a high degree of transparency, assuming I wish to publish what I learn.
3) It preserves our personality. Writing in our natural voice may take some work, but once we find it, it changes our writing forever. Part of remembering someone is found in all those somethings that define them as unique. Writing helps me express myself to myself, and then to others.
4) It can be a place to say what we didn’t get around to saying when we thought we should have said it. Perhaps it is a situation where we wanted to say something, or should have said something, but didn’t. It may have been a time when we should have offered a compliment to our children for something they did, or a colleague, or our spouse. Or perhaps an apology. While it will not buy back yesterday, it will allow us to clear the air, to express regret or gratitude, or offer praise; albeit, publicly, if we choose.
5) It preserves our life story for others to enjoy, reflect on, and, yes, hate on, for years to come. I’m guessing that not everyone will be thrilled to hear my name mentioned. I hope there are no haters around, but I’ll have to accept that some may have seen me as selfish, reckless or thoughtless somewhere along the way – and they probably were right. There will also be those who will recall my name with some warm fuzzies.
But more than that, it is simply an account of key life events and why they happened. Family and friends might well appreciate these accounts.
6) It gives us the opportunity to pass on what we have learned, and are still learning. I would like to think that in all of those years of my life, I’ve reached some worthwhile conclusions. And just maybe, one or two are worth sharing.
7) It’s a place to lay out what we are most proud of from our lives – and not so proud of. Maybe it is our career accomplishments, education levels, or family which makes us most pleased with our lives. For me, it is the chase that is interesting – and less the catch. For example, I enjoyed the challenge of getting a PhD, but can’t tell you where this or any of my degrees are located right now. For years, they were laying at the bottom of my underwear drawer. On the other hand, I recall colleagues who had every degree and award posted on their office walls. No matter, what are you most proud of? Write it down.
8) It allows us to say what we hope people will remember us for. I went to a high school class reunion a number of years ago and one of my class mates, maybe the class salutatorian, asked me how it was possible for me to have a PhD. She was a bit perplexed as to how I ended up there after being what she perceived as a not-so-bright kid in her class. Hmm, really impressed her in high school!
It is interesting to learn what people remember about us, and what they want to ask us, if they had the chance or courage. We aren’t to others what we might think we are.
The fact is we make basic conclusions about people we meet rather quickly, and based on rather limited bits of information. Scary, actually, but it is the way our brains efficiently handle information. Now we may not care too much about what most people think of us, but that is probably not true of everyone – our families, friends, and maybe former classmates from decades ago.
Some statement as to what our lives were about, or at least what we wanted them to be about, seems a worthy aspiration. And better if it’s written down.
It is almost certain that what people think of me is not what I think of me. While it might not change their mind about me, it seems best for me to say what was on my mind as I went through my life. The world can take it or leave it.
Further, I think we do pursue ends in life that we thought were important at the time. We also might look back at any number of these and wonder why we were so caught up in them. But, really, we’re the ones who likely have some idea as to what we were trying to do, what we were thinking, while pursuing those things, however misguided they look in hindsight.
Blogging is a medium through which we can reflect out loud on those events, phases and activities that comprised our lives. While we likely will profit from the journey, so too might others.
“In living, our stories are made. In writing, our stories are remembered. Write them, lest they forget.” I like that.