I had in mind that we would talk about something else today. But, as I sit here contemplating the last few days, I can’t help but feel that this conversation – the one we are about to have, not the one I had previously had in mind – is too important to put off.
Last year, Kate and I celebrated 20 years being married. And, for the first time in those 20 years, we decided we would mark it by doing something special. Sure, we’d celebrated previous anniversaries with nice meals in nice restaurants, but we’d never done anything really special. You know – pushed the boat out. And we figured that, after 20 years, it was about time we did.
So we booked to go away to a super-nice hotel for two nights. And, as you might expect in a super-nice hotel, we had a super-nice time. And that made me think.
It made me think that we haven’t had enough super-nice times in our 20 years together. It made me think that we haven’t even had enough just ‘plain old nice’ times in those 20 years. Some. But not enough. And that’s no-one’s fault but our own. Or, probably more accurately, mostly my fault.
You see, like I’ve mentioned in the past, I’m driven. That can be a good thing – it means I get things done, and make stuff happen. But it can, as we’ve spoken about before, also be a bad thing – a very bad thing – because it can result in me (or you, if you are driven, too) being focused on what needs to be done at the expense of everything else. Consumed by the ‘do’, instead of creating space to simply ‘be’.
That’s what was so different about the time we spent together during our two nights away in our super-nice hotel: we created space to simply ‘be’. And, from inside that space to simply ‘be’, we created memories.
And that’s when it hit me – the stuff we do, the stuff we build, it comes and goes, but the memories we create stay with us forever.
The fact of the matter is that, however long you live, life is short. Too short. But the legacy your life creates will stretch on into eternity – through your children, your children’s children, and everyone that your, and their, lives touch along the way. And, sure, your driven determination may instil a fantastic work ethic, it may prove what can be achieved against all odds, and it may establish enterprises, projects or initiatives that outlast you and change the course of history. But it is the memories that you create that will truly shape the future.
It is the memories that your partner, your friends, your children, and the people you merely brushed against hold of the times spent with you that will affect their attitudes and responses to what lies ahead. It is those memories that will define how your spirit, and your legacy, endure beyond your lifetime.
I think that’s what really hit me, as I thought about our weekend away in our super-nice hotel. If I were to die tomorrow – which I have no plans to do, but, if I were to – then it would not be the work I had done, the enterprises I had created, the money I had, or had not, managed to make, that Kate would remember. Or that my children would cherish. It would be the memories of times spent together in a space where we could simply ‘be’. Where we could laugh together, cry together, just be together.
And I realised that those memories would be pretty thin on the ground.
Maybe you aren’t like me. Maybe you prioritise simply ‘being’ over always ‘doing’. Or maybe you are, at least a little bit, like me. Only you know that for sure. But one thing I know for sure is this: memories matter.
You will always have another opportunity to ‘do’ something, to build something. And, if you don’t, if you die tomorrow, in the grand scale of things, does it really matter whether you did that thing, whatever it was? Not really. Because, like I said, it’s not what you do, or the things you build that will be your true, lasting legacy. It’s the memories you create that will be your true, lasting legacy. And you may not always have another opportunity to create those and, in the grand scale of things, that really does matter.
Build things, do things, and pursue your dream with guts and determination. But pursue the creation of memories like your life depends on it, because, in a way, it does. Note to self.