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Leave Something Great

I was reading People magazine cover-to-cover as I always do (how else to stay current on Miley Cyrus’s life?) when I came across a great quote by Cyndi Lauper.

[Can I just pause before telling you her words to talk about how much I wanted to be like Cyndi Lauper when I was little?  I would push one side of my hair over my head and wish I could get that side crop that she had in the 80s.  Plus, I wanted my hair to be orange since that’s my favourite colour.  And I wanted to wear Betsey Johnson dresses.  Oooh, and I wanted to hang out with Boy George.  I don’t know if Cyndi actually ever hung out with Culture Club, but in my imagination, they were best friends who got burritos together and laughed and laughed.]

Cyndi commented that despite all she has already accomplished, she continues to work in order to have her ass covered before she has to depart this earth.  She says,

I always want to try to do something that will live beyond us.  If I’m going to leave something behind, might as well make sure it’s good.

I don’t know why it struck me enough to drag the magazine around with me for several days, moving it from room to room as I thought about it.  I mean, isn’t that all any of us are trying to do?  Make our mark?

And then I wondered how many times I’ve actually truly looked at the quality of all the creations I’m leaving behind.  Start small: this blog.  Not every post is quality.  Some of it is just incoherent ramblings about Candy Crush usually written after playing too much Candy Crush.  And I’m sending that out into the universe; this drivel about an iPhone game.  THAT is going to be what lives on after I’m gone?

Then the books.  They’re not exactly Harper Lee quality.  They’re not making profound statements or changing the fabric of a nation.  Is it good enough to send fun into the universe?  And does fun stick to the ribs long enough to stand in place for me after I’m gone?

Not to get all morbid on you.

[Though Justine and Kathy will vouch that I’m really dialing down the morbidity for you.]

Then the twins.  I’m making them, even though their free will certainly undoes some of my hard work, such as teaching them the best of musical theater.  But I am fairly proud of the work I’m doing there.  They may just be good enough to feel like I left the world better than I found it, though I’m not sure how much credit I can actually take for that fact.  A lot of people have influenced who they’ve become.

There are my words and my actions and my cooking (I really do hope that I’ll be remembered for my chocolate chip cookies; that recipe took so many years to create).  There are the times I’ve paused for another person.  The times I didn’t even realize that I had affected someone’s day.  It works both ways — I’m sure I’ve negatively affected people as much as I’ve positively affected people.  But the subject of this post is the good things we leave behind.

From my point-of-view, I look at all that Cyndi has accomplished and think, “you could rest, you know, if you wanted.”  If she never wrote another song, if she never wrote another score, she would still leave the world with her mark firmly in place.  With something really good left behind.  But it really is in the eye of the beholder.  She still is continuing to create because there is no “done,” no end point to look at and say, “that’s it; the best I can do.”

You just keep working hard, trying to leave something great.

What are you going to leave behind today to mark your spot in this world?


1 Katie { 08.12.13 at 8:44 am }

Oh, Mel. This post hits me hard right now, because this is something I’ve been struggling with for months on a professional level. I don’t feel satisfied. I want to do something every day that leaves a mark (in a good way), and I’m still trying to find out what that something is.

Thank you for sharing this quote. I’ll be sharing it, too – and thinking hard about what this means for me.

2 Ana { 08.12.13 at 10:24 am }

Whoa. I need the think about this one some more, but off the top of my head, I’d say hopefully my kids and my clinical work. The rest of my work, the science, time will tell the impact (or not).

3 fifi { 08.12.13 at 11:46 am }

Ray Bradbury had a similar quote:
“Everyone must leave something behind when he dies, my grandfather said. A child or a book or a painting or a house or a wall built or a pair of shoes made. Or a garden planted. Something your hand touched some way so your soul has somewhere to go when you die, and when people look at that tree or that flower you planted, you’re there. ”

This hits hard when you realize that “a child” may not be possible. And I’m not much of a gardener.

4 Laurel (Dawn Storey) { 08.12.13 at 1:40 pm }

Wow. Not much. 🙁

Need to get to work…

5 Lori Lavender Luz { 08.12.13 at 3:11 pm }

The best that I hope for is to fully be mySelf. It’s taking awhile for me to *know* who that is, much less have the trust to *be* mySelf.

Anything worthwhile will flow from that.

6 a { 08.12.13 at 9:59 pm }

I’m not much for attention – I like to fly below the radar. So, I’m not trying to leave a mark. I’m just trying to be kind enough to make up for those days when I’m a terrible person. And I’m trying to raise a decent human being.

7 Christine { 08.12.13 at 11:06 pm }

I think about this. I nearly wrote a blog post about how my blog was my “body of work” but then I decided that sounded much too full of myself considering how much of my blog is simply moaning about how the baby didn’t sleep again and how she’ll never ever wean and mundane things like that. I decided to wait till I had a better body of work to stand for me. And like you, I considered whether my children counted as my legacy, but they’re not mine alone. So I don’t have a good answer yet, but I’m hoping I will, by the time I need one.

I was going to mention some sort of Boy George connection at this point, but it turns out on further research that he’s not nearly as Irish as I always thought he was, so I can’t.

8 Justine { 08.12.13 at 11:10 pm }

I LOVE this. And not just because I loved Cyndi in the 80s, either … though I wore a ridiculous number of gel bracelets and wore my hair to the side sometimes, too. Boy George. Oh, how I wanted orange hair and dark red lips.

I think a LOT about leaving a mark. And sometimes I feel like it’s never enough. And sometimes I know that the small things are really, really important. The things that I don’t think much about are the most tangible, sustainable marks. And it’s what I’m thinking about now, trying to decide what I do next (and avoiding turning in my cover letter).

FWIW, you’ve left your mark on ME. Though I’m just a pre-corpse, too. 😉

9 ANDMom { 08.13.13 at 8:26 am }

I don’t feel the need to leave behind something large and tangible to the world. The overwhelming majority of people in the world – present and future – are never going to even know I existed, and that’s ok.

What’s important for me is to leave memories for my children. Stories about where they came from, how they came to be, how they were as babies and toddlers. To leave behind photos – of me, of family, of them. Family history, to see their heritage. And my cookbooks, so the can recreate the foods they love when they are grown and I am gone.

My husband lost both his parents before he was 21. And they weren’t big talkers, so he didn’t even know the heritage of our last name. He doesn’t know if his parents struggled with infertility, though through old cards and letters we think they did. He didn’t know what other relatives he might have out there until we got a call from a long-lost cousin. He frequently and obsessively tries to recreate his mom’s meatloaf, and never quite succeeds and that makes me hurt for him.

I don’t want to leave pieces of me – I want to give them pieces of themselves that only I (and their dad) hold. That’s enough for me.

10 It Is What It Is { 08.13.13 at 12:57 pm }

Yeah, I have to agree that I don’t think that the culmination of my life is the mark I leave behind on the world. I know that what matters most to me is the relationships I have, the love I have given and received. I mean, I love and remember my grandma for her cooking and her unfiltered words and my brother for his artistic side and just that he was older and beloved by me, but what does that mean to anyone but me? It certainly doesn’t mean anything to them.

I just want to live an authentic life and give more than I receive. If you read my most recent post (http://itiswhatitisorisit.net/?p=4731), you’ll see that I have a lot of digging out to do.

(c) 2006 Melissa S. Ford
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