One of my best gal-pals in college had a long standing birthday tradition. Every year, she wrote a letter to herself, to be opened on her birthday next year. She would read last year’s letter, reflect on the year, and write the letter to her next year self. I really love birthdays – much more than New Years, it seems like such a perfect opportunity to reflect on the year. It’s a day all about you (which is funny, if you think about it, given that it was a huge day in the life of the person who birthed you).
As a teenager, the thing I feared most was mediocrity. I chased accolades and awards. I pondered the meaning of my life a lot, wondering what I would leave behind. Recently, though, I’ve started thinking that living a meaningful life is not about how many accomplishments I rack up. It’s not about if people remember my name. Maybe it’s about living a life that seems meaningful and fulfilling to me, even if it doesn’t add up to a long resume.
It’s impossible to know exactly what it is that we leave behind, anyways. Writers leave behind books and plays and poems, musicians leave behind music, scientists leave behind research… but what that body of work means to an individual or to your field is impossible to gauge (unless you’re Einstein). My cousin recently told me that she met one of my mom’s nurses, who remembered my mom and our family from over 10 years ago. While she certainly had academic and professional achievements, what my mom left this nurse with was something else entirely.
Since Eli was born, I’ve worked part time. I haven’t run any races, made any big presentations, or won any awards. Maybe that stuff will change, as he gets older. I think what I’m trying to say is that I’m glad I have this time with him. I’m inwardly focused right now, and that’s good – because that is meaningful to me. My goal for this year is to do more things that I find meaningful or enjoyable. I want to build upon the things that are really important to me. I’ve spent a lot of my life worried about what others think of me; screw that noise. I want to focus on what I think of me.
But for now… pastel funfetti cupcakes.