Originally Published: October 14th, 2013; Updated: June 23rd, 2014
Will I be remembered?
Will I make my mark on the world before it’s my time to exit?
I’ve been asking myself these questions, and questions like it, a lot recently. Maybe it has something to do with my recent 27th birthday, the supposed “Saturn Return” birthday where anyone between the ages of 27-29 are supposedly beginning to question their own mortality and maturity and the “seasons” of life. I must admit, I’ve fallen victim to these ideas a lot lately. Mostly, I’ve been wondering if what I’m doing with my life will be remembered. Are we even supposed to be remembered after we’re gone?
Or is it inherent in the circle of life that, when we die, we become a part of the earth that created us and that our only part in this whole crazy system is that we make way for future generations to live their lives, just to make way for their successors?
Is that what life is all about?
I’ve spent a lot of time wondering if what I’m doing, teaching, is going to be my only legacy. Will I leave behind a trail of students who will be inspired by what I’m doing and the choices I’m making in my classroom, who will then go out and pave their own paths, much like how I was inspired by my former teachers? Will I be satisfied with teaching the rest of my life? Will I be OK if I never publish my book? If I can’t make it as a writer, am I destined to become anything else? Will be satisfied with my life? Will my life have purpose?
Truth be told, I don’t know the answers to those questions, and that kind of scares me.
I’ve always been told that life, if anything, is uncertain and unpredictable. Even through all of its predictable encounters and the monotony of The Daily Routine, our futures are entirely unpredictable. Everything can change at a moment’s notice. Then again, everything can also remain exactly the same, and I could wake up when I’m 50 having accomplished absolutely nothing. And it’s that level of uncertainty that freaks me out.
I want so much for my life, and now that I’m edging closer and closer to my 30s, I’m less willing to wait because life doesn’t wait. One minute I was a closeted 15 year old boy with thoughts of suicide, the next I’m 27 and in a happy, committed relationship with the man of my dreams. Twelve years have gone by in the blink of an eye, and in twelve more years, I’ll be almost 40.
I don’t want to live the next 12 years the same way I’m living my late 20s. I want each moment to be memorable. Every second to be new. Because what if I die tomorrow? The only certainty in life is that life itself is uncertain. We’re alive until we’re not. Simple as that. Some of us will suffer from diseases, some of us will pass instantly. Some of us will experience tragic accidents.
Will we be remembered by how we died? Or will our lives be remembered by how we lived?
Last week was Glee‘s Cory Monteith/Finn Hudson tribute episode.The opening song was “Seasons of Love” from Rent, which beautifully encapsulates this idea of memorializing somebody who has left us.
The whole episode was very therapeutic. Most of the original cast came back and it focused on them and the myriad ways people grieve when they lose someone close to them. It was exquisitely done; one of the best hours of scripted television I’ve ever seen. I may or may not have ugly-cried throughout the entire episode.
However, what it left me — a hardcore, diehard Glee fan and somebody who was deeply and unexpectedly affected by Monteith’s death — with was feelings of grief for my own mortality and of those I hold closest to my heart, questions regarding how I will be remembered, and the longing to reach out and hug my closest friends and family and tell them how much I appreciate them because the bottom line is that we don’t always get second chances to tell people how important they are to us.
I think I’ve finally realized why Monteith’s death has affected me so deeply: Because I’ve been watching Glee religiously since the beginning and I’ve been able to relate to these characters on personal levels, I’ve thought of them as extensions of my own friends; their archetypes have manifested in my own friends. To lose Monteith, and subsequently Finn Hudson, a character I often saw a lot of myself in, was jarring. It doesn’t matter how he died. What mattered was that he did die.
And if he, a fictional character, an actor who seemed to be on top of the world, could die so suddenly, then why can’t something similar happen to me? To my friends? To my family?
Questions of mortality are hard to ask, let alone answer. Death is such an intangible idea … until it’s not.
How do we measure someone’s life?
Is it in accomplishment? Love? The mark they’ve made on those who matter the most? What about those who will never know us? Should we care that they’ll never know us?
Are we truly living to our fullest potential each and every day?
Am I making my mark on the world?
Will I be remembered after I’m gone?
Will anybody care?
I’m coming to the conclusion that it’s not the worst thing in the world to ask these questions. It’s ok to wonder how how I’ll be remembered. It’s ok not to take things for granted, to appreciate each and every morning for what it is: another day, a beautiful day, a day filled with the unknown. In the end, all we have is the knowledge that we did everything we could do to be good people, to touch those around us, to immortalize ourselves in other’s minds by taking stock in what we do, whether it’s writing books or making music or working a 9-5 that keeps the world running the way it ought to.
It’s often thought that death is the opposite of life.
Death is not the opposite of life. Death is the opposite of birth. Life has no opposite.
There is no flip-side.
There is nothing but now … right now.
Live the life you always wanted because there is only one. We only get one chance. There is only right now. Be the mark you wish to make on the world. Be the man or woman you want people to remember. Do everything you can to accomplish everything you want to accomplish.
What happens next is unknown.