Building a Legacy, Day by Day

NOT in the slow lane, YET 

The blog is about living life after 70 with joy, resilience, and purpose. NOT in the slow lane, YET is a source of positive, helpful advice encouraging people to set and achieve goals  and find joy in life. The blog will cover personal experiences and thoughts and concerns. Topics of blogs will include health, retirement, fashion, travel, and  living in continuing care retirement communities. The blogs will be short and appear at least once a month on my website or by email if you choose.

 Building a Legacy, Day by Day

What is a legacy? 

Retirees are often told they should consider the legacy they want to leave. What are legacies?  Memoirs?  Documented  family history and  stories of ancestors? Passing down family traditions and recipes?  Caring for grandchildren so parents can work?  Giving money to family members  or things we feel enthusiastic about like art, churches, or  health institutions. Passing down family businesses or helping young family members start businesses?  Mentoring others?  Helping the poor, the homeless, and others who are suffering?   Leaving creative objects like paintings, hand-stitched quilts, and sculptures to family or community institutions.  Legacies are something handed down from the past, something important to you, and a  part of your history.  In broad terms, it includes all the things listed.  How do I want  people to remember me?  

Do legacies matter?

Legacies matter because we want, in varying degrees,  to leave a footprint on earth.  We think about how we were raised, our values, and what our responsibility is to others.  Those things determine how important a legacy is to us and what we want to leave. I have mixed feelings about legacies. “ Legacy”  sounds grandiose.  Maybe  only important people leave legacies…in science, art, music, religion, philanthropy,  business.   I didn’t grow up expecting to be a consequential person, just a good wife and  mother.  I was born at the end of the Great Depression and beginning of WWII.  There were specific roles for males and females.  Girls were taught to be modest, respectful of authority, and self-effacing. I didn’t always meet those expectations. My mother said I was a particularly good baby and toddler but grew up to be mischievous.  She said I was “sassy.”  “Sassy” meant asking too many questions or disagreeing.   Being independent and strong was the role of boys, not girls.    It began in cradle days on a family farm in Wisconsin in the mid 1900’s when doctors told our parents to let us cry.  It was good for our lungs.  They said catering to children and too much affection made them spoiled.  Parental authority was not questioned. Our parents described as “fighting” our childhood bickering about who did what or whose responsibility something was.  Such behavior was subject to punishment,  hours of gardening or chores.  Pertinent to  legacies which ask  us to list out achievements,  we were told,  “Don’t toot your own horns.”  “Don’t brag about yourself.”    While we weren’t  encouraged to seek grand achievements, our  parents instilled strong values… be good citizens,  be honest and truthful, campaign against injustice, and be achievers.  I am grateful to them.

Redefining Legacy.

Is my footprint on earth meaningful and important? I have decided to be kind to myself. I  am reframing the  meaning of  legacy.  If you have trouble knowing what to do about a legacy, you might  do as I am doing.  Think about these for your own definition of legacy. 

What is the purpose of my life?

What was the proudest accomplishment of my life?

How do I want friends and acquaintances to remember me?

What would I  like written in my obituary by my family?

After asking myself these questions I decided to stop worrying about my legacy.  It is up to all the people who I have known, family, friends, neighbors, teachers, colleagues at work, and even my enemies to determine my legacy.    I cannot control it. I will stop comparing myself  to  others and certain standards.  I will keep trying to be a good neighbor and good friend.  I will try to  be kind,  honest and truthful.  I will try to be a good citizen and involve myself in my community.  I will create my legacy every day by what I do and how I treat others.    

That will be my legacy.

What is your legacy?