From time to time, I’ve wondered, when I am finished here on planet Earth, what I will have left behind. The tangible evidence of my life will be small. What of the intangibles? Have I done what I intended to do, lived by the values held close to my heart? Will I leave something of meaning behind?
I remember an encounter I had many years ago. Having been a member of a collegiate circus (yes, with a tent and clowns and people swinging on the trapeze), I had taken pride as a twenty-year-old in my capabilities. In particular, there were two acts I performed, and in these, was something of a trailblazer. Some years after my time as a circus performer, I was in a restaurant chatting with a young cashier, who, it turns out, was currently a member of the same circus troupe. “What’s your name?” he asked.
When I told him, he said, “Oh, wow, you’re the one…”, and he proceeded to describe something I’d done one afternoon, a small feat of strength, showing off to my circus friends. I smiled, I laughed, and said, “Yeah, I did do that.”
I left with a lump of sadness and this clear message: I had absolutely no control over how I was remembered. What was left in people’s minds was not the great trick I’d done, or my daring-do in helping to create a new act. A chance moment, an impetuous flight of hubris, had created the footprint, my one memorial in these people’s minds.
Yesterday afternoon, as I sat in the astonishing disorder that is my new home, still much more a workshop and warehouse than a person’s nest, and wondered, again, at the choice I’ve made to renovate an old, industrial building. Such a strange thing to do, really. Then I glanced at the wood floor where the sun’s rays illuminated the print of my own foot, and I laughed. My footprints are everywhere, some visible, some not, some only revealed by a hit from the sun. But they are mine.
I will keep going, keep doing. And know that what others take from me, what they make of my life, is of their own doing. All I can do is blaze my own trail and be light in my heart about the tracks I leave behind.