Legacy- what is it?
- Money or property given to another by will.
- Something handed down from an ancestor or a predecessor or from the past: synonym: heritage.
- An individual who is either an applicant to an educational institution or a matriculated student and is the child of an alumna or alumnus.
(The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.)
When we think of a legacy, some of us also think of :
- a ‘nest egg’ we will leave to our children
- a person who has left this world remembered and revered
- the accomplishments of a family or company
In the past few months i have posted about my journey through Stoicism and answered a few questions. I haven’t addressed the rest because a few had me stumped and i wanted to take some time to sit in each one for a deeper answer. I believe this combines a few of them into one:
- who am i doing this for?
- Does this actually matter?
- Am i living a meaningful life?
I’ve come to a conclusion(*for myself only).
I am doing this for my children and grandchildren. This surprised me because i have never considered myself a family oriented person. But thinking long and hard, i had to admit that this was the top reason, in spite of whatever else i have been telling myself. What I want to leave behind, what is most important to me, is the legacy i will leave. This is what matters, and is signifies a meaningful life to me.
This doesn’t mean having a nest egg in any material sense. I don’t have anything of monetary value to leave. I don’t fully own my home and the mortgage likely won’t be paid off before i pass on. I don’t own a thriving business. I own no “valuable” pieces of art or antiques. I own no stock, have no trust fund or 401 k. I have debt, and always will- barring any miracles.
But what i do have is hard core life values, experiences, and examples.These things things will linger long after i am gone, the most valuable of which is simply “strength and resilience”.
You see, I have always been the Phoenix, rising from the ashes. I have been down too many times to count. From making bad choices, usually, in relationships, finances and how i spent my time. Some of these resulted in years and years of consequences. Some ended trust. And some just drained me emotionally-rendering me unable to push forward for a very long time.But each and every time i have been able to pick myself back up, start over, overcome any obstacles and rebuild myself.I have proven over and over that it is possible to reinvent yourself- despite your age, your past experiences, and even current circumstances. I have shown a consistently strong work ethic and determination. And, most of all, whatever i have gone after, i have always achieved ( good or bad). But, the achievement is only a very small PART of the story.
In order to achieve our goals, dreams or whatever one equates as fulfillment, we must indeed make sacrifices. Nothing worth having is ever free– we must invest effort, time, energy and/or financial resources. If we want our own home , we must save up and that might mean not having that Starbucks Mocha Latte everyday but rather learning to brew our own. It might mean ( like today for me) getting to the gym instead of taking the holiday off and spending a few hours with my boyfriend before work or or just laying around eating ice cream as i binge watch something. For others, it might mean spending time studying instead of partying, committing to eat at home more instead of dinners out, or even pumping your breast milk ahead of time so you can still work while giving your baby the best nutrition. (These things are rational sacrifices. However, I want to assert here that we can indeed go after things which are not “good for us”. That’s a future blog post though).
But if i want to leave something of value behind, i have to place value on it now, every single day. I want my children and grandchildren to one day say with pride “THIS is my mom/grandmother- she taught me to never give up.Here are some of the things she did.” If you know your why, it will get you through any obstacle. It will push you to keep going, even when you don’t feel like you can go another day, take another step, or even get out of bed. It will be fulfilling, meaningful and have long lasting effects.It matters.
It will become —your legacy.