I think the idea of a legacy is very similar to the idea of a reputation. We can only control them so much and preoccupying our mind with either probably doesn't make that much of a difference in how people view us.
But is that to say we shouldn't be concerned with our legacy at all? I think how we are remembered should mean something to us. How we want to be remembered is reflective of our character, our ethics, our moral code, and the way we made a difference in the lives of others.
I can't remember the exact quote right now, but I believe it was Maya Angelou who said something along the lines of this: People will never remember your words, but people will always remember how you made them feel. That concept sums up pretty well why I've been so consumed with the idea of creation over the last couple of years.
I've pretty sure I've written more pieces on this blog in the last two weeks than I have since I started it, but I feel like I'm finally committing to my aspirations as a writer. I enjoy writing for a number of reasons, but I enjoy putting my thoughts out there into the ether probably the most.
I was talking with a friend the other day and we were discussing the idea of how we are remembered. I'm not sure how we got on the topic other than we were both discussing some recent struggles with grief. Since Alyssa died, I've thought about what her legacy is. It's an American tradition to be very weird and abstract with death; we don't like talking about it and we definitely don't like acknowledging it.
I think that the reason Americans react so adversely to conversations about death is that here mortality and morbidity is constantly getting better. Incidental death is no longer common and medicine has gotten so good at treating illness that people don't die like they used to. Alyssa and I - and tens of thousands of other CF patients, as well as millions of other people that have chronic, life-shortening diseases - don't have the luxury of ignoring death. I view my writing and my situation as an opportunity to change the conversation surrounding our relationship with death. I don't believe we should fear death and I don't believe the reality that we all die should dictate our lives at every turn, but maybe we should confront that reality more concretely.
I think a way of going about this is by zooming out of our day-to-day existence and wondering how people would remember us. I listened to a podcast a couple of years ago that advised the listeners to write the eulogy you believe would be written aboutyou, and then write the one that you would want written about you. The idea was that you would then try to make the decisions and change your existence to suit the one you preferred.
When you consider it all, and when it's all said and done, our day-to-day lives matter so minutely. Sitting in traffic may be the most infuriating inconvenience to happen in your morning, but when you recall some of these seemingly terrible moments, does the feeling you recall of that time you sat in traffic 3 years ago evoke the equal magnitude of anger you felt when you were sitting there? Absolutely not, because you made it to work and realized the consequences of being late weren't that severe. Look, I think there's a reason we get mad about little stuff: because we can. Our lives have reached a point where we can stress about minute things. To some degree, that's a representation of our far we've evolved to not be constantly preoccupied with out own survival. It's okay to be upset about these daily annoyances or else you wouldn't be motivated to get to work to time in the first place. But it's also important to recognize them for what they are: minor annoyances.
I wrote a couple of pieces in January that were intended to generate conversation or at least evoke some thoughts out of the reader. I wrote about the question of what is a life well lived and I also wrote about coming to grips with my mortality. I mentioned this in a previous piece, but both of these pieces were my own internal reflections on Lyss's predicament at the time. I knew, based on the evidence and the way things were going, that Lyss neither had much time nor a high likelihood of getting another transplant. This forced me to confront my own mortality and also to take a step back to ensure I'd be actively pursuing my goals to satisfy the "well-lived" prerequisite.
In creating anything, it's difficult to balance "quality vs quantity." Is it better to produce a lot of mediocre content, or produce very little great content? In my experience with writing, the answer is that neither are true. All great artists produce both great content and bad content, from the perspective of the viewer and from the perspective of the creator. It is not possible to create great art without creating some bad art. Creating is fulfilling because the pursuit of perfection is never-ending, but the result of producing good content is ever-satiating.
I cannot totally control my legacy. I enjoy writing pieces that are essentially just essays on things I think about. I will not make a judgment on if they are great or good or bad or pointless. I have learned that the act of creating itself is fulfilling, but creates an opportunity to hone my craft, which motivates me to create more. I hope my legacy is dynamic and viewed from different lenses by everybody that has ever come in contact with me or my writings. If my legacy is the same to everybody, then that's no legacy at all. My relationship with everybody I know is different so I hope that I'm remembered differently by everybody; my writings should affect everybody differently, as all art does, because polarization can be the instrument of change. I understand that I have been abrasive to some, and while I hope to never do harm, I realize that my vocal nature is an outgrowth of my passion.
Alyssa's legacy is different for everybody. For me, her legacy inspires me to confront my tribulations head-on. I'm motivated to be myself and love myself for who I am, despite my predicament at any given moment. For others, her legacy inspired them to be appreciative of their health and to try to outwardly display positivity.
At best, when I write, I hope I make a difference in someone's life by filling them with some sort of emotion, be it hope, or laughter, or an epiphany. At worst, I hope the reader at least sees a new perspective, though maybe it doesn't affect their daily life thereafter. Maybe my legacy will simply be motivating people to consider their legacy. Maybe it will be nothing more than me exploring life outwardly as a writer. Who knows, it could be something I don't even know I'll be interested in in the coming years.
I know I can't control my reputation or legacy; I can only control my life.
And I think I'm beginning to be okay with that.