Is everything beyond this point a bonus?
What is the definition of a good life? Is it in accomplishments? Ideas? Beliefs that carry forward? Should we measure it in money or economic impact? Does being a good human simply equate to not hurting anyone? I have struggled with this issue, and the pride that comes with ‘feeling like you were meant for something more.’
It is odd that humans, so pedestrian in our lives, have such grand ambitions and manage to pass these to our children generation after generation. The question that vexes me now is: what if the transformational change I have made in this life is already done? I have read books about great people who impact the world since I was a child. I grew up with no other purpose than to ‘be important’ or to ‘have other people recognize me and the impact I made.’ I do not know how exactly this came to be, but by the time I was in high school, it was clear that satisfying my personal demons would not be easy.
This same motivation has led smart people to places beyond recognition. I am 36 now. My decisions at points in my youth have occasionally been questionable, but death has not found me, and has left me for another day. I have been lucky, in almost every aspect of my life. I have found a partner and produced 3 of the most beautiful and interesting creatures I could possible imagine. My path has led me to help many people – some who I remember, and some who I helped and immediately forgot. I know for a fact that I have made a positive impact on a few people’s lives – but I hope that those people I talked with for only 30 min, or those that I spoke to in passing at a party – I hope that the advice I gave them changed their lives as well.
What if the most important thing I did in this life is done already and I don’t even know it? History is written in retrospect; it is likely that this assessment will not be made until several decades from now.
Am I so caught up in the rat race, and the drive to improve – that the thought just hadn’t occurred to me until today: What if the transformational change that I have made in this life is already done? What if the impact I was supposed to make was not through me, but through the things I taught and helped people with? Is the impact I will make outside of my own life (professionally and intellectually) complete, and will it be manifested by others on my behalf? Will I even be remembered? This is all disturbing, and yet strangely liberating.
If the die is cast, so to speak; then all I need to do from this point forward is love my family and be the best father to my children that I can be … there are so many stories of parents chasing some impossible dream when their most important work is right in front of them. I think this could change the way I work, the way I live, the way I decide my priorities.
Is everything I do in this world beyond this point a bonus, and will my impact really be judged by the work of my children, and the actions they take… if so, what do I do from this point forward? Continue to climb the wheel? Or focus on others and enjoy the ride?