I remember reading about this idea a while back, and it has been lingering in the back of my mind ever since. Society focuses so heavily on the concretes, the tangible things that you have accomplished. What organizations have you had a leadership role in? How many awards have you won? It is as if our culture, especially for young people applying for college, graduate programs, jobs, is saying, “Prove your worth to me.” Yes, cram every bit of evidence of your value onto a nicely organized one-sided piece of paper. And it is this paper that we show to people saying, “This is who I am.”
Throughout high school and even in college, I was the person who was always there. I was in all the clubs. I played the sports. I did the extra work. I earned the As. You name it. I was there. Even today, I find myself constantly becoming over-involved, saying yes far more than I should. Part of the reason that I am involved in so many groups and organizations is to be an active member of my community by meeting new people and being a part of meaningful work. I really do find pleasure and purpose bigger than myself in the activities I participate in. But whether I admit it or not, part of my busyness stems from the desire to add my activities to my paper of who I am, to be able to say that I did something, to have something to tell my extended family at the Christmas party, to be hired in a workplace where I am well respected for my achievements, to know that I “deserve” it for all my hard work.
But in thinking about identity, the word, “legacy,” often follows in conversation. What will you leave behind? How will people remember you? And I think it all boils down to the eulogy. A eulogy is given by a person who loves you and knows who you are well. And what do these people say? Not that you had a 4.0 GPA. Not that you had work published in several peer review journals. Not that you were the top sales person at your company.
The person giving a eulogy talks about who you really were aside from the resume-builders. That person tells of the crazy adventures the two of you went on in college. And the time you drove five hours to them because their mom was sick. And how they knew you and God were old friends. And how you were like a songbird: awake before the rest of the world and singing, always singing. And how you were tough, but around kids, your exterior would melt. And how you were loyal, trusted, compassionate. And how you loved them. And how they loved you. And they will continue loving you. Forever.
No, what is spoken in a eulogy cannot be written in a resume. And while eulogies are usually for after a person passes away, they are the most authentic window to who you are and the mark you leave on others.
The truth is this. I do not know when I am going to die, but I know that one day my time here will come to an end. But, I am still here. And while I am, I want to build my eulogy, not my resume. I want to be a close friend and a cherished family member. I want stories and memories of me to roll off the tongues of the people I love. Stories that they hold within their hearts for the rest of their lives that go, “I once knew a girl named Nina and I loved her very much.”