Legacy through Effort

Those who do and make yearn to leave some mark on the world, some legacy of our hard work. Yet in our desire for success, we might be held back from our full potential by fears of irrelevance or failure.

You may feel that so many innovations are happening, so much art is being created, so many worthy causes are asking for help, that it’s impossible to stand out. Don’t succumb. The world is drowning in content, yet the demand for more never ceases. If what you make is good and the right audience sees it, they will remember it and share it with other people.

Legacy need not be the success of our efforts, but can celebrate the efforts themselves. Though Susan B. Anthony never saw her goal of woman’s suffrage achieved, we still credit her lifetime of work for the cause. Though Giordano Bruno was executed, we honor his resolve and dedication to reason, his refusal to bow to the censorship of the church. Leonardo da Vinci is celebrated for his inventions of flying machines and other inventions that were never constructed or functional for being ahead of his time; we recognize his vision and curiosity. What matters is not that we succeed, but that we try.

Legacy is not easy, should not be easy. The challenge is what earns notice. If anyone could do your work, what makes it special?

The hard problems are the most rewarding – the challenge increases the value. Don’t reject projects just because they’ll be challenging – but at the same time don’t set yourself up for certain failure – choose projects that are a reach but attainable, that will push your abilities.

Through our efforts – not the results of those efforts – we build a legacy among those who react to our work.

The Joy of Backpacking

Tracy backpacking in Kahurangi National Park in New Zealand in 2005

Backpacking is miserable, but I can’t get enough of it. If I could spend the whole summer out in nature on the trail, I would. It’s mentally and physically challenging, every day facing:

  • blisters, aches, and pains from your feet to your back;
  • long slogs up steep slopes that demand your mental fortitude to persevere;
  • flavorless food in various textures of mush;
  • cold fingers and cold feet;
  • heavy loads that never seem to lighten;
  • chafing straps and the constant battle to settle your pack comfortably, switching the weight from shoulders to hips to shoulders;
  • the risk of injury or getting lost without anyone to help you, demanding your constant focus;
  • finding and hand-pumping your water (I know, this doesn’t sound like much, but I find it’s a total pain in the ass).

So why take on the misery of backpacking? The challenges are worthwhile for the perception switch to the rhythm of the trail, the simplicity of trail life, the satisfaction of self-sufficiency, the beauty of the landscape.

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Personal Bests: Pride without Need for Recognition

My very first day of pole vaulting…and I didn’t get much better from here! (Though I did hold the pole at the tape :D)

I competed in track and field in high school, an unmemorable athlete. I pole vaulted, practicing just enough to clear opening height half the time, and stuttered through hurdles with laughable form. I might earn the team a point a meet.

But, senior year, I found my event: 400 meters. One lap around a track. A quarter mile. You need endurance; the race requires a near sprint for a full minute or more.

I pushed myself through repeat 200’s. I improved. Sometimes I wasn’t the slowest leg on our 400m relay team. And our relay team was good.

County finals rolled around and I thought, “This will be my last 400m ever.” I ran faster than I ever had before. My legs were numb as I rounded the final curve. I couldn’t believe my legs were still responding to commands. I matched the girl beside me. I couldn’t hear the Incomprehensibly to me, I qualified for county finals. I never imagined that I could be one of the nine fastest 400m runners in the county. But my hard work was rewarded with a Personal Record (PR)…and another race?!

I didn’t place in the county finals (unless you count last), but I surpassed my own expectations of my ability. I was a runner of no note, except to myself. I still remember my PR, nine years later, without looking it up. I remember how hard I worked for it. It’s a landmark on my personal map of achievements.

In my writing, I have no notions or visions of being immortalized as the next Thoreau or Abbey; I hope to inspire thought, appreciation, and creation in others while honing my craft. I want to create to the best of my own abilities, to create something that I am proud of.

In your work, or if you race non-competitively, aim to achieve the most you can, yourself. Set the bar against your own PR, not the world record. Don’t get caught up in trying to be the best; enjoy the competition with yourself as you push for your best. But leave yourself open to new goals and achievements – you just might surprise yourself.

Reassured by Life’s Resilience

Every day, I watch humanity exploit, exploit, thanklessly exploit the planet’s resources, and helpless tension burrows deeper in my mind. I fear that humanity will utterly destroy the planet through our entitlement and laziness. We show utter disregard to the planet’s non-human denizens, refusing even modest accommodation for the sake of profit and convenience. We blink not an eye at the extinction of a species brought about by habitat destruction from human development, shrug our shoulders at the daily destruction of rainforest to accommodate grazing land for cheap beef.

We ignore the big picture and permit the erosion, piece by piece, of habitat. What’s one more house, one more street? What difference can one small wetland make? Our perceptions cannot encompass the compounding effects of development on a county or watershed scale, and certainly not at larger scales like the country or continent. Continue reading

Reject the Tasteocracy: Enjoy Your Own Tastes without Guilt or Discrimination

Haters gonna hate

Ignore the haters and allow yourself to be your own curator of what’s good.

One of my favorite songs, “In the Air Tonight” by Phil Collins, came on the radio today. After a moment of happiness at hearing it, I remembered how South Park had mocked it, and instead of enjoying the song I started brooding about cultural curators of ‘cool’.

We’ve all encountered it. You meet someone cool. Sussing each other out, you start chatting about music. Naming names. You mention that you like band X. He says with disdain, “Oh, you like that?” You get a sinking feeling as your cred sinks. It has been decreed by the tasteocracy: band X is decidedly not cool. You’ve missed your chance at membership in this social group.

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