"His smile was absolutely infectious."
"He lived with the best kind of humility--not the artificial humility that some people put on, but with the recognition that all people have their strengths, talents and experiences for which we should respect them."
--quotes about my father in the eulogy given by his friend (and former boss). I hadn't remembered the coconut thing, but it explains my disgust with the white shreds of evil.
The question "How do you want to be remembered?" has been sort of a recurring theme for me over the past year. Personally and professionally, it's come up again and again in different contexts and scenarios. So I shouldn't be surprised that it reverberates through this summer.
The culminating project in a special leadership seminar I participated in at work was to write our own personal mission statements. Some people might perceive this as a touchy-feely exercise, but I found it profoundly important, especially coming so soon after the death of my father. Some people end up focusing on the values they hold most dear; some people focus on the most fundamental roles they play; some people focus on what ultimately defines success for them. There's no wrong way to do this...as long as you're being authentic.
Despite my general avoidance of New Year's resolutions, my statement ended up being a list of resolutions--each of which expresses who/what I value and how I want to exemplify those values. Do I want to be remembered as a devoted spouse? Yes. A loving and supportive parent? Yes. As a hardass professor who expected the best from her students? You bet. As a stunningly brilliant writer? Well, don't we all? I won't share my whole mission statement, but here's one point from it that I feel applies to all aspects of my life--family, friends, students, colleagues, writers, strangers...
I resolve to be more present--to focus more on the present moment as much as possible so I don't miss precious opportunities and experiences.Not so easy. Not when it feels like 5 billion things are clamoring for my attention at once. But that's one of my goals. For me, it's not directly about how I want to be remembered but what I think I need to do to personify what is most important to me.
Here's a little twist in the "How do you want to be remembered?" reverie. What we do in the digital world sticks around long after we've forgotten; all these bytes in the clouds have the potential to live forever. So, for instance, high school students don't just have to worry that pics of underage debauchery may be found by future college admissions reps...they have to worry about future spouses...and grandchildren...and historians. Previous generations could more easily hide some indiscretions (although Clinton "didn't inhale")...but now the lines between public and private are increasingly blurred.
And Adam Ostrow's TED presentation "After your final status update" shows a seriously plausible SciFi-turned-reality kind of immortality through our digitized selves
This has all sorts of repercussions. How do I want to be remembered? How much of that can I control? Both online and off, I can control quite a lot about how people perceive me, especially if I limit how much of myself they get to see. But I still can't control everything. I can control my actions and reactions by keeping my own ends and motives and values in mind. I can consider how closely my behavior (and my online presence) reflects my personal mission in life (and make adjustments accordingly...whether to my mission or to my actions). And I'd consider myself lucky if I could be remembered as the kind of person my father was.
And so...I'd like to give you a little homework assignment:
- Take a few moments (or a few days) to think about how you want to be remembered. If you feel inclined, maybe draft your own mission statement. You might compartmentalize (how do I want to be remembered as a writer....as a parent...etc) or you might do the whole "meaning of life" thing. Whatever feels right to you.
- Then, if you're willing to share, post some of your thoughts here in the comments section.