Leaving a Legacy

I was reflecting recently on the former president of the United States, and I had some thoughts that I wanted to share.

I’ll start by saying that I refuse to be political or partisan in this blog.  There’s already enough of that on the Internet, and the United States is already divided enough as it is.  I’m going to mention recent political events in passing, but I’m not going to contribute to partisan politics here.  I would ask that you, too, leave any bias or partisanship aside.

Regardless of your personal politics and whether you agree with his policies, it’s not too far of a stretch to say that a lot was accomplished during Barack Obama’s time as President.  To state a few: passing the Affordable Care Act; naming the first Hispanic woman to the Supreme Court; opening diplomatic relations with Cuba; finalizing the International Climate Change Agreement.  And more.

When considering, though, that he entered office in 2009 with such high hopes (‘Yes We Can’ and ‘Hope and Change’, remember, were the campaign’s slogans), there were things left unaccomplished.  He had 8 years in office to enact policies and follow through on his promises.  One chance.  In some areas, he was successful; in others, not so much.  (There are various reasons for his success and failure, but to focus on these is well beyond the scope of this post.)  No matter your opinion of him or the current President, as of January 20, 2017, the legacy of Barack Obama’s presidency is now written, in its entirety, in the history books.  How history judges that legacy remains to be seen, but nothing more can be added.

As I reflected on the accomplishments and legacy of the former US President, I started thinking about my own recent experiences and how they compare to what I set out to do.  Like President Obama entering his first term, I had a lot of hopes and aspirations for what would happen while I was in Europe.  Some came to fruition, and some did not.  I didn’t stay in Europe to teach.  I only saw 3 different countries, Spain, Italy, and Switzerland, and I had already visited Spain twice before.  I returned to the US much sooner than I anticipated.  When I wrote recently of feeling like I failed, these considerations were in my mind.

On the other hand, it could be said that I had a wildly successful trip.  I saw places I didn’t imagine I’d see.  I met some absolutely amazing people.  Glancing through messages from the various messaging platforms on my phone, I counted over 40 message threads from people I didn’t know at the beginning of August.  This doesn’t even include people with whom I haven’t communicated.  It’s possible that I formed several relationships that could last for the rest of my life.  I grew a lot, possibly in some ways that may not be evident for years.

And so the ‘term limit’ of the trip, if you will, has been reached.  I can’t change anything or add anything to it.  My personal legacy, however, is still ongoing.  How I see this trip and how I allow it to change me from this point forward still matter.  Who I am in this moment and in this period of my life will contribute to who I am in the future.  As I write this, I’m 31 years old.  I don’t know exactly how many years of my life are ahead of me, but I do know one thing: I’m not dead.

Formed habits become character, and character dictates the course of life.

As is so easy to do, I’ve been so focused on the ‘big changes’ of life (e.g., the changes that come about by going on a trip to Europe) that I almost forgot that small changes are just as important as the big changes, if not more important.   It’s in the small things of the day-to-day that our habits are formed.  Formed habits become character, and character dictates the course of life.

To you, reader, I say this.  Don’t miss the big opportunities for change when they come, but don’t be so blinded in looking for the big changes that you lose focus on the present and the daily habits that form your character.  No matter your age, there is still time.  If you’re reading this, it obviously means that you aren’t dead.  You’re alive, so do what you’re supposed to do with your life: Live it!  Grow!  Stop putting off that thing you’ve been thinking about doing.  Love others.  Whatever your station in life, be the best you can be each day.  Do what you can to make the world a better place.  Remember: one day, you will leave a legacy.

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