We all want to be remembered.
So many of us want to do something noteworthy in life. Whether it’s writing a book that gets universal acclaim, making a movie, winning a championship, getting your doctoral degree, or anything of that ilk, so many of us spend our time on earth trying to do something that will outlast us, that will be admired and revered by future generations, ensuring that in some way we live on, even if we ourselves aren’t there to see it. The opposite just might be the most terrifying concept there is. You live on the earth for eighty years or so, you do nothing of note, and when you go, no one remembers that you were there. It’s unsettling to think about, and when you realize that each day that passes is a day we don’t get back, it might make you live life differently.
Wow, that was heavy. Now that I’ve averted my panic attack, I can tell you how I really feel. I would love to write a book that’s widely read, that’s referred to as, “A classic,” but I know that I’ll live a good and fulfilling life either way. I feel the same way about having children. If it happens, that would be great, but I don’t need it to happen. So many people want to be remembered for doing something of significance, but I don’t want to live a life that’s not true to myself and to who I am as a person. If that means that I’m not remembered decades or even years from now, I’m okay with that. I’ll know that I did things in a way that made sense to me, that I dedicated myself to the things I cared about. That’s always been enough for me.
There are times in life when we have to leave, for one reason or another. We have to pick up our things and go, say goodbye to a life we’ve built for ourselves, and go someplace else. Living with my best friend for the past year-and-a-half has been an illuminating experience. The time we’ve spent together has shown me just how different we are, but we also have a few things in common. We both love puns, we both love sports, and we both look at leaving in a similar way. We hope that the people we leave behind won’t miss us too much, if it at all. We hope that they find happiness in a life that we aren’t apart of anymore, save for the occasional visit or phone call.
It’s a defense mechanism, this line of thinking. We’d like to believe our decision is singular, that it won’t affect anyone else. We’d like to slip out quietly in the night, and hope that no one realizes we’re gone or picks up the scent. It would be great if life were like that, but I also think it would be horrible. To truly live life, to truly interact with people and to have friends and family, it means that there’s no possible way you could leave without anyone noticing. When you go, the people left behind will experience pain whether you want to accept that fact or not. No matter what, there will be a void that can’t be filled.
Pain is something so many of us avoid, but I’d argue that it’s a necessary part of the human experience. Pain can be uncomfortable, but it can also remind you that you’ve done something worthwhile. It let’s you know that you mean something to someone, even if you’re more interested in the prospect of falling off the face of the earth or disappearing. It’s a sign that you’ve lived your life well, that you’ve meant something to those around you, that your presence and your actions have enriched their lives in some way. Most likely, their presence has enriched your life as well.
You can pick up and move away. You can tell yourself that people will move on, that they’ll have kids and get married, that maybe you’ve outgrown each other or that they just don’t need you around anymore. Their lives will continue, as will yours, but you’ll both be different because of the absence of the other person. You both may have gone in different directions, but you couldn’t possibly hope to be the same, even if you maintain some form of communication. There’s a huge difference between seeing someone in person and and sending them a text or calling. There’s something about not seeing the other person that always makes the interaction seem less real.
There’s no substitute for in-person communication, and that means that there’s always a reason to come back and visit. If this person truly means something to you, you’ll put forth the effort, and vice versa. There are few things more joyful in life than maintaining a friendship over a lifetime, as a good friend once told me. When you both keep the friendship going, you get to experience all of the highs and lows together. You both deal with the pain, and you help each other get through it. To have someone truly know you and understand you, I’m not sure there’s anything better than that. We all need to be heard.
You can try to start a new life when you move, try to forget the past, tell yourself that you’re moving into the next phase of existence, but you’ll never be completely different. That person you’re leaving behind still shaped who you’ve become, whether you want to admit it or not. You can leave them behind, but they’re still going to be a part of you. They’ve played a significant role in shaping the person you are today, and there’s nothing you can do about that.
People look to accomplish something significant in their lives, to be remembered. I’ll settle for being remembered by the people around me. I hope that in my time on earth, that I’m able to give people something they needed, that I made their day just a little bit more manageable. I hope that their recollection of me is positive. I hope they can say that although he was extremely flawed, that he did try to do the right things, to help people, and that he tried to be as loving as any person can be. If I have to leave behind any sort of legacy, that’s what I’d want it to be. I’d be comforted and assured that I lived a life that made sense, and that even though I won’t be remembered for anything that I did, I hope to be remembered well by the people I love. Thanks for reading.