“You have no idea what your legacy will be because your legacy is every life you’ve touched,” Maya Angelou. We are trained to believe that our lives are measured by how much we achieve, accomplish, and acquire. I bought into that for a long time. I also believed that our success was determined by how much power we had. I let frustration creep in because the more power I tried to have, the more control I tried to exert, the less control I had. I felt like a doormat because people were happy to take advantage of the person getting things done for them. But I was just as guilty. I was manipulating the circumstance because I wanted people to treat me a certain way or do the things I did for them, for me. When we try to manipulate the circumstances around us, the people around us, it isn’t authentic.
The truth is I never gave much consideration to legacy. I wanted to do something and to make a name for myself while I was here. I wanted to have the freedom to do things and not report to anyone. I wanted to live my life as I deemed fit. I thought people would give me the means to do that if I did what they wanted me to. Really, they just allowed me to serve their purpose and never got around to mine. We are responsible for our own dreams—no one else.
As I’ve matured and started addressing the things in my life that need to shift to get me where I want to be, I see how relationships with people impact us. Something I never admitted before is that I’ve spent a lot of time hating people. I hate feeling insignificant and I’ve had many challenging relationships where I’ve been left drained, taken advantage of. I’ve always felt that as people with a higher sense of responsibility and a greater understanding of our relationship to each other and the Earth that we had a stronger obligation to do better. We are able to do better and we should do better. It has taken a lot of time to see that people come from their level of experience and they are working with their own frame of reference; we are all doing the best we can. Beyond that, we need each other. There is no room for hate. We need to teach each other.
Our impact doesn’t have to be some grand project that changes the world. We are more often able to change the world for one person at a time. And maybe that is enough. We can make someone feel better with a smile, a random act of kindness, guiding them, or listening to them through a hard time. Understanding the role support plays in people’s lives—we are social creatures and sometimes all we need is to know we aren’t alone. Maybe the goal isn’t to acquire, but to inspire. I’ve been blessed to have some amazing mentors in my life, people who opened up to me, but allowed me to open up in ways I never thought possible. People who lived their lives with passion, not pressure but still made an impression. Life isn’t about closing off because of who we aren’t, it’s learning to open up with who we are. That is our legacy.