A woman who volunteers at my work is taking a class called Your Personal Legacy, and yesterday, I asked her how it was going. “It makes you ask yourself hard questions,” she said. Curious, I asked her what kind. “Well, for example, it asks you to list your favorite things to do.”
Not so hard, right? But here’s the thing. Ten years ago, I would have had trouble with that answer, too. I would have analyzed my responses. I would have tried to decide what sounded better, and I would have struggled, really, to identify what made me happy. At that point, I was slogging through full-time employment, full-time motherhood, and full-time disappointment in myself.
Notwithstanding marrying my husband and my raising our daughter, the two most important things, I hadn’t accomplished anything that mattered to me. I didn't love the job I'd been at for twenty-three years, but those golden-type handcuffs had me stuck. When weekends arrived, I resented anyone who took hours away from my home and family. I wasn’t writing regularly and had buried the desire to do so, so deep I didn't understand it would save me. That changed all because, alone at home, eighteen hours after a sudden layoff, I had no idea what to do, so I plopped myself in front of the computer to document my feelings. Then, with zero forethought, I cut and pasted them into a blog. The first time I pressed “publish" defined me and altered everything.
Over the seven years since, I’ve written perhaps millions of words. The poems help with current hurts and the novels have given me confidence that I can set goals and achieve them. But best of all, the personal essays that have appeared here have healed me and taught me about myself. All the words that have spilled out since the morning I wrote that first post have eliminated brain clutter and helped to clarify the thoughts within. Sometimes lately, I think I’ve done it, that I’ve cleaned out all the detritus that resides in me. But then, a churning begins again and I end up in front of the computer, focused in a way most pure, in a zone where I am totally in tune with myself, writing, writing, writing. I’ve poured so much out here, when someone asked me a question about myself, instead of having to sift through all the junk in my proverbial attic, I identify my feelings and unpack them rather quickly, as it were.
For the record, I rattled off my favorite things to do without hesitating during that recent conversation. My answer went like this: Writing, reading, and going out with my husband.
But my personal legacy? That one’s easy. I don’t have to take a class for that one. My legacy is Middle Passages. It’s this.
What's your personal legacy?