Today, I read this great advice column on Man Repeller. It gave me some real reassurance that I'm not the only one who worries about what mark I'm making on the world. It also gave me some relief about what I'm expecting of myself.
I often feel I'm in the unique (and sometimes unenviable) position of being un-categorized. When I first meet people, they often ask if I have children. Am I married? These are perfectly natural questions. My answers always seem to leave these new people wondering what to say next. "No," I say. "Just me." There's always a polite nod. Maybe even a sad smile. I'm a woman approaching middle age without a significant other, children, or a powerful career. Who am I?
I don't fit into the normal parameters for a woman my age. I've never been married (divorced would give me an answer when someone asks about marriage). Whatever small cubby someone had in mind for me, when first meeting me, gets immediately abandoned.
I guess I'm thinking about this because, what if I don't amount to anything? I won't have left behind children or a partner. I won't have left behind any tangible part of myself.
I will have left behind some good memories from years worth of students with whom I've worked. I will have left behind love in the form of family and friends' children. I will have left behind whatever writing I manage to scribble out. These are small things, but they are worthwhile. I believe in these things. I believe in good memories, love, kindness, generosity, and art. So, when I'm having my George Bailey moments, I have to remind myself what Clarence said to George, "Each man's life touches so many other lives. When he isn't around he leaves an awful hole, doesn't he?"
I especially love what Leandra Medine says in her Man Repeller column, "It is wildly uncommon that someone who worries about not amounting to anything actually ends up amounting to nothing."