When I pass on, what do I want people to remember about me?
I asked myself this question when I saw a heart with initials carved into a tree at a park close to my office. Whoever A and C were, this tree bears witness to their undying love – well, at least until that tree bark falls off. For all I know, maybe it was another engineer out for a quick lunch and this engineer just really really loved alternating current. Or maybe somebody really loved Angus Young but couldn’t care less about Malcolm.
Anyway, it’s not about death. It’s about moving on. Other than death, change is the only other inevitable fact of life. I’m not the same person I was ten years ago. I’m definitely not the same person I was twenty years ago. I’m better and I’m also worse. I’m me, but now. I change.
However, the bits and pieces of me that I’ve left behind are all that my past acquaintances, coworkers, friends, and family remember of me. I think these bits and pieces are the small seemingly inconsequential things about us that will always be remembered.
I recently had a customer whom I had not seen in a couple of years come down to work with me. He had gone through several life changes and though he was definitely different, at the same time, he was still the same. He still wrote with such force that he could leave imprints of his writing five sheets down into a notebook. He still loved the chicken burger at Islands – but ironically, the chicken burger didn’t have the same name. He still had a shiny head and looked like an angry pink bulldog, even though he’s probably one of the friendliest people I’ve ever met.
But, he looked at me and the first thing he said was, “Gerard, you’ve lost weight!”
I guess I have. Three years ago, I lived a pretty sedentary life. This weekend, I plan on riding 20+ miles…and I’m only riding because I can’t run comfortably anymore. So yeah, I guess I have lost some weight. The thing is – I don’t think I was big to begin with…I’ve probably lost at most 10 pounds, so my customer saw something else.
Some people can focus in on the essence of a person pretty quickly. It’s a skill. I don’t know if I have it – I can be VERY oblivious. Actually, no, I am VERY oblivious.
I try to think of what I do that others will know as a distinguishing characteristic that is uniquely me and will *never* change – kind of like a ‘tell’ in Poker.
I shake my legs when I’m concentrating. I walk a certain way. My hands always have to be moving or fiddling with something. These things, for sure, are still me and will always be. However, I don’t think these are the traits that people will remember me by.
I don’t know what people will remember me by. I’m different things to different people.
I have friends that still ask me if I’m still doing my Army thing! I was in the Army Reserves for eight years starting in 1995, so yeah, I guess it did have a big part in my life and my interactions with people back then. That must have been all I talked about or exuded.
Today – well, I talk about my family, my biking, my lack of running, my photography. A couple years ago, it was all about golf. Several years ago, I was all about cars…even before that, it was a specific car (my 1989 BMW E30 325i – ah, the moneypit…).
These thoughts make me think about my mentor and family friend who passed away about eight years ago. He was instrumental in my career and in my life when I first started working in the industry. I remember having long talks about work and plans – not 5-year plans, but 20-year plans – but amazingly, what I remember most about him is his food. He loved to cook and if we weren’t talking about work or family, we would talk about food.
In any case, how will I be remembered when I move on and leave others behind? How will I remember others when they leave me behind?