It seems like a lot of people these days are very concerned about leaving their mark on the world. They want to make sure that when their time is done they’ll have LIVED!!! They’ll have made a difference and the world will be a better place for them having been here. Certainly, no one wants to shuffle off this mortal coil without leaving some evidence that they’ve existed.
Personally, I applaud this attitude. It encourages people to push their boundaries and explore and experience new things…which hopefully has the added benefit of opening their minds and souls to the wonder around them. Too many people don’t open themselves up to new experiences and ideas – often through fear or apathy. The end result is that they don’t expand their minds, don’t see new things, don’t think new thoughts and end up living worthless, pre-packaged lives circling the drain of their own fears and prejudices.
The thing is, everyone wants to be the next George Washington…or Sally Ride…or Leif Eriksson or <insert name of your personal hero here>. They want to live life bigger and grander and have adventures and become someone who will be a household name. Someone who will be remembered. Someone who made a difference.
But living your life with that attitude is completely forgetting (or ignoring) the fact that fame and historical significance was not necessarily something those people sought out. In many cases it was something that they didn’t want but that was thrust upon them by a world hungry for the next big thing…or person.
It also ignores the fact that fame is fleeting and a very fickle bitch. It’s actually not that hard to be famous. It’s much more difficult to be famous for something good. And it’s even more difficult to stay famous for something good. Today’s great adventurer is tomorrow’s mass murderer and slaver. Today’s great athlete is tomorrow’s cheating drug user. Today’s TV Star is tomorrow’s washed up loser. Then there’s all the people who go out to leave their mark and vanish without a trace. I can’t tell you about them because the only evidence they ever existed is the shattered lives of the family they leave behind.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying you should never go out and do something adventurous or even dangerous or that you shouldn’t try to leave your mark on the world. But go do it for the right reasons. It should be an accent to your life, not a substitute for it – the cherry on top of the cake, not the cake itself.
Let’s say you enjoy rock climbing. You’re out every weekend climbing bigger, more difficult rock faces. You decide that you want to climb El Capitan. Go for it! Practice, expand your skills, push yourself and when you’re ready, go climb it! But if you’ve never climbed anything harder than the stairs in your house, deciding to climb El Capitan is at best, stupid…at worst, suicidal.
Of course, there’s another way you can leave your mark, achieve immortality and never be forgotten. It’s very simple, absolutely fool-proof and anyone can do it. One catch though..like most simple things it’s very difficult. All you have to do is be the best you that you can be.
I know what you’re thinking, “But that’s so boring! I want to explore, climb, fly, do…exciting things! I don’t want to just be another <insert job title here>!” Yeah, right. You and everybody else. But everybody can’t be the best exciting thing doer. There can only be one “Best”. That’s kinda what Best means.
But there’s only one of you. And if you resolve to be the best you possible, you can do great things. Abraham Lincoln once said, “I never had a policy; I have just tried to do my very best each and every day.” He succeeded. But you don’t even have to be Abraham Lincoln. You just have to be you. The best you.
My Father-in-Law was a meat cutter. Not a Butcher. A meat cutter. Butcher was too fancy a word for him. He worked almost every day of his life. He married, had two kids, supported his family, paid his bills, raised his kids, worked more, paid more bills, lost his vision to glaucoma and still worked and finally died, just as he had lived, with quite, uncomplaining dignity.
Oh, he didn’t do it alone. His wife was there by his side the entire way, sticking with him through thick and thicker. But those few lines describes his life. Except that they don’t. Not. Even. Close. There is so much more there than I could ever write down. But he was at heart just a simple meat cutter from West Virginia. A simple man from a small town…who was so respected that his funeral was almost standing room only. Who was so loved that his family still talks about him and thinks about him almost daily. So much so that sometimes it feels like he’s just stepped out of the room and will be back any minute. That is achieving immortality.
And you can do it, too…from the comfort of your own living room. Just be the best you possible. Live, don’t exist. Find someone to share your life with that loves you as much as you love them. Do your job the best way you know how. Have children. Raise them to be better people than you are. Don’t expect them to be clones or follow in your footsteps. Expect them to be the best them that they can be and to find their own path. And, most importantly, love. Love your partner, love your children, love your life…and don’t forget to love yourself.
See, it’s simple. And the hardest, most difficult, most challenging, most rewarding, most fun thing you can ever do. But if you do it, you’ll make a mark. You’ll make a difference and you’ll be remembered after you’re gone. Do it and you’ll be immortal.