Day #20: What do you want people to remember you by?
What type of legacy do you want to leave behind?
(For your family..students…friends..anyone and everyone that matters to YOU)
For some reason I frequently feel like I’m totally forgettable. People I’ve met several times don’t seem to recall who I am. Have I left no impression at all? Am I invisible? Sometimes I wonder. If I don’t seem to leave much impression in life, how am I to leave any type of legacy after I’m gone?
When it comes to the big picture, we are all just tiny blips on the radar screen of time. We are born, we live, we die. Most of us leave behind loved ones who will mourn and remember us, but over time they too will expire and along with them, the memory of us will die. It’s as though our lives are a flame, warm and bright but fleeting. Some of us are like tiny birthday candles, snuffed out quickly and soon forgotten. Others are a bonfire, or even a forest fire. Some lives reach millions, for better or worse, others hardly reach beyond their own front doors.
Of course I want my family to remember me with love and tenderness, and I’m sure they will, at least for a little while. I do wonder what will become of me and my memory after I’m gone, but deep down I think I know. I came from nowhere, and I will return there. I was adopted at birth, never allowed to know anything about the circumstances of my origin. I simply appeared. I believe that after I’m gone a while, I will simply disappear, forgotten from the family history, possibly relegated to a footnote, or an asterisk on a distant relative’s family tree. I was a give away for one family and an add-on for another, and as such, perhaps easily dismissed by both.
Outside of my family, I hope to leave a larger legacy. I hope that somewhere out in the world at least a few of my students look back fondly on their experiences in my classroom. I hope they remember that I taught them something, or tried to make some lesson memorable, or even that I was goofy and silly in class. I hope that at least one person took away something positive from their time under my care. Sadly, I feel like the odds are against me on this point too. People grow up and move on. Rarely do they remember their fourth or second grade teacher making a mark on their lives. It seems the only time they do recall these people, they do so in horror.
Maybe this is part of the reason I write and quilt and scrapbook. These are all ways for me to say, “I was here.” I may just be one of those little blips existing in a tiny space in the universe until my own flame is snuffed out, but my life is important. I live and love and dream. I can and will leave my mark on the world, and I will do my best to leave it better than it was when I arrived.
September 28, 2013 at 5:12 am
Your post brought tears to my eyes. You are a teacher. Teachers have the greatest impact on students…not all, but some. And those children will always remember you. I am thinking how lucky you are because you are a teacher. My grandmother chose to attend college and had a career when most women married. She lived until she was almost 100. I remember people coming to visit, and talking about what a difference she made in their life. Or the life of their parent. It snowballs…
Four of my siblings have gone into education. (It’s either that or some form of medicine…I tried both and ended up on the outside of both.)
You are so fortunate. You will be remembered.
I have to go find some tissues…sob…
September 28, 2013 at 7:25 am
I suppose sometimes our viewpoint is a bit skewed. Thanks for lending me a different angle, and sharing your family’s story.
September 28, 2013 at 10:52 am
You are a teacher and slim chance of being remembered for some time and then when your students go along with them your memory too goes. However it is more important that you enjoyed whatever you did as a teacher, daughter/son, mother/father,wife/husband. It is more important that we enjoyed whatever we did.
If you look very minutely only the men who preached divinity and practiced what they preached have lived through centuries whether Jesus, Krishna, Buddha, Prophet Muhammad or ones of their kind. Another group that is sure to survive for centuries are those who worked on basic science like Newton, Einstein or Hippocrates etc. Another group that may survive are they most hated ones like Hitler, Osama Bin Laden etc.
So it is most important that we do whatever we do to our best enjoying it all the way. Rest is for History to judge. By the way I am sure even Shakespeare perhaps did not even dream that he will be remembered for so long.
September 28, 2013 at 4:11 pm
I’m sure you’re correct. In fact when I was contemplating this topic I posed the question to myself or whether or not it really matters to me. I’m still not certain of the exact answer to that question, but it’s a moot point since I’ll be gone anyway.
September 28, 2013 at 4:32 pm
You brought me to tears as well. You are making an impact in this world whether it’s largely recognized or not. You have a beautiful spirit about you (from what I hear in writing) and I’m sure you spark something in people’s lives. I will always remember the teacher who was a shoulder to cry on when my mother was abused by an old boyfriend and I took those bad feelings and trauma to school with me. I had no one to talk to about it but my fourth grade teacher. She held me and let me cry like she was my family and I will never forget her. She was also the one who introduced me to poetry and my love for writing. I will never forget Mrs. Penn and I’m sure you will have students who will say the same about you 🙂
September 28, 2013 at 4:35 pm
Thank you, Mrs. Penn, for making such a positive impact on your life. And thank you for your always encouraging words. 🙂