Ok, the title might give you the wrong impression. This isn’t about biblical lore, or archeology, or aliens. This about what “we” leave behind, once we’ve shuffled off this mortal coil.
I’ll be perfectly honest and admit right up front that I stole that headline from a book I started last night. I may have fudged the wording, but it was the idea that it sparked that got me writing. In fact, when I read the sentence, it was like getting hit upside the head! This is the “cause” I’ve been looking for and working towards for years, I just didn’t know it until this unknown (to me) author put it so succinctly.
One of the greatest curses of mankind, is the knowledge that life is temporary. Well, it might not seem a curse to some, but I think for many – and I include myself in that group – it is.
I’ve always had a keen interest in “leaving my mark” on the world. I don’t mean that in terms of being “famous”, which holds no appeal for me, but in terms of making a lasting contribution. Being able to breathe my last breath, knowing I left the place just a little better than how I found it. Or if not better, just different, in a nondestructive way.
I don’t really know why I feel compelled to leave something behind for posterity, nor why it feels important to me, but I do and it does. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I think I’m special or particularly noteworthy, it just feels comforting for some reason to think that when my days are done there will be something left behind. As the title says, some evidence of my existence. Selfish? Perhaps.
I know in some little ways I HAVE made a difference on a personal level, to some individuals. Finding that “needle in a haystack” employee and putting them on a career path that was truly life changing for them. Helping out friends that were going through some serious problems and seeing them through to the other side. Teaching music to kids, being an “understanding” adult when their own parents either couldn’t or wouldn’t. Helping strangers broken down on the side of the road. Giving food -directly- to hungry people. These are all things that I’ve done and feel good about if I stop to think about them, but none of that will leave a lasting mark.
Back in the mid-80’s my father was the General Contractor on the first hotel built in Campbell, CA. I was in high school at the time, and frankly couldn’t understand why anyone would want to invest money in building a hotel in Campbell (shows what I know, now there are half a dozen!), but nonetheless even I felt a sense of pride in my meager connection to this project. The hotel still stands today, and every time I drive by it, I still feel proud of Pops. Before that, his father was a Contractor building skyscrapers in the Dallas boom days of the 1970s, which he got into after several decades building military installations around the country. I’ve got long lines of builders and craftsmen on both sides of the family, so maybe this pull in me is just part of my DNA. But now I’ve been around long enough to realize NOTHING lasts forever. Back when I worked in “the Trades”, I worked on and built some beautiful stuff for homes, offices, retail establishments… but over the following decades, those homes have been sold and remodeled, office buildings and shopping centers torn down and rebuilt fresh…as I revisit some places I’ve worked, it’s kind if heartbreaking to discover that part of my history has been erased. In a weird coincidence, I spent about a year building cabinets and fixtures for a large residential facility being built at the time. Some 15 years later I would go to work as the Facilities Director for that same facility, and oversee an 18 month “master plan renovation” that entailed tearing out and replacing about 90% of the things I’d built 15 years prior. That one stung a little more than usual.
I’m sure the artists that created all those magnificent bronze statues never could have imagined 2020 and their destruction either…
Aside from the relics of my days as a tradesman, I’ve recorded an album-that never saw the light of day- and started-but never completed- two screenplays and a novel. All of those efforts were things I thought would be my legacy, and yet they were never wrapped up because I was trying to keep a roof over our heads and food on the table, or even simply keeping my head screwed on straight. Survival today ALWAYS takes priority over plans for tomorrow.
And now, here I am on the downhill slope of life. If I’m lucky (which has never been the case for me. Ever.) I’ve got another 30 years. A far more realistic timeline, based on family history, reckless youth and a history of “bad habits” is maybe 15 years. That isn’t a lot of time to secure a long lasting legacy, especially when I don’t even know what it is… I guess I better figure that out quick, time is ticking!
Anyhow, I’m not really sure where I was going with this. More “thinking out loud” on my part I guess. Maybe I’ve got it backwards…maybe it isn’t setting out to leave a mark that actually accomplishes doing so, maybe it’s just being true to yourself and doing what you are compelled by your very soul to do. Maybe it’s just following your inner guide that sets you apart and leaves that mark on the world. All we know is that we don’t know what we don’t know, ya know? What I can say is that if you’re on your path and it feels right TO YOU, don’t let anybody dissuade you from following that path to the end. The world is full of people ready, willing and able to tell you “you’re doing it wrong”, but you’re the only one that knows what’s right for you.
Just my two cents and something to think about.
Thanks for reading!