Monday, February 14, 2011

The Legacy We Leave Behind

Many of us have been asked at some point in our lives, “If you could go back and do it over, would you?” My answer was usually, “If I could go back and take the wisdom that I have now, yes, I would.” On one hand, if I did go back and change things, would I be the person I am today? On the other hand, if I could go back with what I know today, I think of how I could have done things so much better.

I would have taken more chances. I would have pursued my own dreams without letting others try to live their dreams through me, or not letting me live my dreams at all because if theirs didn’t come true, why should mine? My self-esteem would have been higher and I would have believed in myself more. Instead of trying to please everyone around me, I would have been more my own person. I would have loved more, been kinder, helped people more. When I think of it, I could have taken on the world and become the greatest expression of who I was meant to be a whole lot earlier.

Why it sometimes takes decades to become those “wise old souls,” I will never know. Maybe it takes all those years for us to go through those life lessons before we can graduate with a “Wisdom Degree.” I know I wouldn’t be the person I am today if I hadn’t gone through everything I went through, and today, I can actually say that I like the person I’ve become! It took years of learning to love and accept myself as I am before I could come to that point where I see that I really am all that I need to be at this time in my life. Yet, I’m still learning so that I can be even more as life goes on.

As the older generations look at the younger generations today, we see the great divide between what it was like when we were young, and what it is like today. Some people say that kids today have it so much easier. But do they? When I was young, we had three channels on the TV. We didn’t have cell phones, iPods, computers, VCR’s, CD’s, and all these other modern technologies. Young people today wouldn’t know an 8-track if it hit them in the head. Tape recorders, records, and typewriters are almost things of the past.

Today, even though our modern technology is advancing faster than we can keep up with it, I really think that young people have way too many distractions. They are constantly on their cell phones talking or texting, even while in the classrooms or while driving. Movies are more violent; drugs and alcohol are more accessible. Most young people have vehicles to take them anywhere, any time. Jobs are harder to find. Colleges more expensive. So, do they really have it easier? Have they learned to appreciate what they have?

When I was young, I could see back even farther and see what I had that the generation before me didn’t have. For instance, when I was a young child, every summer, my parents would bring my brother and me down to Livingston, TN to see my great-grandparents. Grandpa built his little four room house and the only modern convenience was electricity. They drew their water from the well, used a wood burning stove, and the outhouse was down a path behind the house. Having that experience made me appreciate what I had; especially a modern commode!

We may not be able to go back and change anything, but we can choose from this point forward. Take the wisdom we’ve gained and pass it on to the younger generation. There are many things they can learn from us.

Looking back, ask ourselves… Did we love enough? Were we kind enough? Did we forgive enough? Did we take chances so that we wouldn’t have any regrets? Is there someone we need to re-connect with? Do we appreciate what we do have? It’s not too late. If we could write our legacy, what would we say? We still have the opportunity to be the greatest expression of who we were meant to be. We can still put the finishing touches on our legacy. When it comes time to make our transition, what will be the legacy you leave behind?

This article appeared in "Our Senior Times," a Cookeville magazine.