Captivating Creations

I don’t just read books, I am held captive by them. They swallow me whole and I am not relinquished until I have looked at every ink splashed page and fallen head over heels for each character, metaphor, and theme. The wonder of each story–non-fiction or fiction–brings me new revelations about life and living and the person I want to be.

This summer I have read more books in three weeks than I did the past three months (due to the hectic nature of work and what-have-you) and my world seems so much more open. It’s a light that has been turned on in the crevices of my mind which had previously remained dormant….

Sorry to ramble about my newly re-kindled romance with books. I actually meant to post about my 5K experience, but got caught up with reading “Wonder.” That novel gobbled me up today as I started and finished it today, cried twice and will forever treasure it’s lessons. So tomorrow I will reflect on the 5K and other things. Until then, let’s just hope I don’t get carried away with another novel. ūüėČ

The Creation of Legacy

Lately, the concept of legacy has been racking my brain. In fact, it has created such prevalent tiny epiphanies, that I have had to start carrying around a little journal to jot down these thoughts as they find me.

I guess legacy has been on my mind much more recently after I just finished the book, “The Last Lecture.” (It’s brilliant in many ways, I would recommend it). In this short novel, Randy Pausch chronicles his life story and final memoir in response to his diagnosis of terminal cancer. As a man with a limited time left on Earth, he does what most humans would do in the same situation, which is reflect on his life’s purpose and goals. Randy mentions the concept of legacy–of leaving something behind that makes the world a better place. He also spends a larger part of his novel reflecting on how his life goals and passions have left a legacy to speak for him even after his untimely death.

Randy Pausch allowed himself the time to consider his life and legacy, and this knowledge created¬†a sense of peace for him before he passed away. This makes sense, for how¬†comforting it must be to know that your life was not lived in vain, due to the positive output you have created in the world. I guess I then started to wonder about how often other¬†individual persons¬†get to ¬†(or want to) think about legacy. More than that, I started to consider the creation of legacy. Should we consider proactively building our legacy every day with our day-to-day actions? Or do we wait until our life has run it’s path before determining the legacy that was built over a lifetime? And I must also remember that not every person gets to opportunity pause and consider his/her own legacy before leaving this world.

It’s not as if legacy is a tangible or measurable item that you can point to or show. Legacy is the concept of leaving behind something more sustainable and withstanding than your own finite human design. In most scenarios, a¬†legacy cannot be a measurable item or amount to be counted by the end of a lifetime. Perhaps you want your legacy to be the family you leave behind–something as simple as that can get tricky. For example, even easy things to count, like offspring, cannot fully measure a person’s legacy, since the connection between generations may yield an even¬†larger product due to¬†summations of legacies. For instance, if your great-grandchild becomes the doctor that discovers a cure for cancer, does that then become part of your legacy, even if you are gone? And ¬†if that the case, then aren’t we all just the product of someone else’s legacy; perhaps you could say we are all connected back to the same original legacy?

Quotation-Jean-Carnahan-legacy-dream-dreams-Meetville-Quotes-2208

Even more tangible legacies are hard to claim. Organizations grow. Charities change. Policies are dropped. Buildings crumble. Almost anything you can create and leave behind in your wake can be replaced, grown, molded or built upon. So what will your legacy be like at the end of your life; but more importantly, what will your legacy look like years after your life? What path will your legacy take after you are gone and no longer able to control the path of what you created?

I guess the only thing I can definitively say about the idea of legacy is that we shouldn’t think too much of it. ¬†As much as many of us wish we could control more of our lives and what comes after it, we cannot. This makes the conscious building of legacy (day to day or week-by-week) a waste of time. We should not stress or obsess over our legacies, which will conceivably change after we have gone. It should not be something you construct day by day; but rather, it should be the product of your life, lived to the fullest. A true legacy–a genuine legacy–is one built by a person who lived every day in accordance to his/her values, goals, and competencies, who loved others and created acts of love and service, who was not selfish but rather selfless, and who wanted to see those around him/her grow. If you live your life in the best way possible, with purpose and with zest, then you may be lucky enough to look back and find that you created something worth calling yours.

Should you never ask yourself, “What will be my legacy?” Instead, consider “What is worth living for?” I think this is truly the more magnificent¬†way to live.

wonderfullegacy

 

 

 

Welcome!

“So, tell me your story.”

“What’s your story?”

“It’s going to be time to tell each other’s life stories.”

I’ve never had a story.. not a story worth sharing or beyond the ordinary. I grew up in a upper-middle class suburb. I had a supportive family. I got good grades, which were expected of me. I got into the best state college, which was expected of me. I was successful in college and enjoyed growing up, which was expected of me. No hiccups. No deviations. Just, life.

I got involved on campus, which I felt was expected of me by the time I was a Sophomore. And I went through the task of applying for positions and trying to get into elite campus organizations. Throughout the years, I got more and more involved as a student leader and it was, like I expected, the best time of my life.¬†I found myself busied by several campus organizations and¬†tasks that became expected of me as I got more and more involved on campus. This included applying for Teach for America. Because by the time I reached my 5th year and had been involved in leadership and service throughout college…well, it was implicitly expected that I apply.

So I did what was expected of me, I applied for Teach for America and I got in. The part of me that loved serving others was ecstatic at the opportunity to do good in the world. And the part of me that was in tune with campus life and what expectations were of campus leaders, well that part of me was pretty happy too. Everything was going according to plan.

Except, there was one little problem in this story of ordinary–a problem that I couldn’t diagnose until this year. That problem was that my whole life has been lived¬†in¬†the way that was expected of me. I just did what I thought I should be doing. I just put myself through what I thought everyone else was doing.

Until this year. Until TFA taught me a couple a things.

  1. If you’re not living your own goals, your living someone else’s
  2. Don’t succumb to expectations
  3. Now I have a story

So here’s how these three epiphanies occurred in just 12 months. First and foremost, this year has been a complete departure from the life I used to lead. I left my comfort zone for the first time in my life. I left my family and a life of success that I had enjoyed. I gave myself up completely for the lives of other. I was lonely as I realized making friends in the “real world” was a lot harder when you didn’t have someone facilitating introductions. And I was doing something I completely hated–teaching. I hated the act of teaching. I hated planning for the act of teaching. It wasn’t for me. Sure, TFA had been the next step in a path of what was expected of me, but I did not give myself the opportunity to realize that who I was as person was not compatible with who a teacher needed to be. To not get into the long story, I’ll summarize. The Alyson who loved the idea that TFA allowed her to do service in a meaningful way quickly became disenchanted as she realized that her TFA experience was not a service to anyone–especially not her kids. And I realized quickly that I had been sucked into a dream–a dream of Wendy Kopp and others–that made me miserable and was a disservice to my students and myself.

So I did something that was completely UN-expected of me. I quit.

I quit at the end of the school year and I planned to go back to grad school without completing my second year of my TFA contract. I decided to live out my own dreams. I decided that I didn’t have to do what was expected of me if it wasn’t the best for myself and for others. I gave myself a voice. I also gave myself a story.

This is a story of picking up the pieces of myself. Pieces that I only became aware of over this school year. And also picking up the pieces of me I shed throughout college because I was too worried about what other people were thinking or doing. It’s about re-learning who I am and what makes me tick. I don’t want to have another mistake where I am drowning in a job or an organization simply because I did not know myself well enough to know that I could not swim.

This is a story of forgiving myself. The other night I had a breakdown because I was failing at playing a card game with my family. Full-waterworks over the slight of hand. But I realized that the complete and utter self-hatred I felt at my own failure during the card game was just the dis-placed self-hatred I felt at my own failure with teaching and TFA. I hated feeling like a failure then, and I continue to hate it now. I have questioned myself and doubted myself all year, beating myself up for not being the best, for not being successful, for not completing TFA. It will take a while and a lot of work, but forgiveness will be a part of this story. It will happen every day that I show myself I am not a failure, that I can do something worthwhile.

This is a story of finding happiness. For too long this year, I have not felt the warmth waking up completely happy, without the tinkering feeling of dismay in the back of my mind or pit of my stomach. This blog is an entry into this new search for happiness. Whether it’s a post about Nashville, my relationships, my dreams–I hope to fill these pages with the joy of life and the bliss of each day. And I intend to seek this happiness actively. I once heard that you cannot chase happiness. Happiness, they say, is like a butterfly. The moment you stop chasing it, it will come land on your shoulder. This is a sweet notion, but I don’t want to wait around. I don’t have a day to waste. I want to chase that butterfly–I want to find that happiness. Why wait for happiness to find you, when you can enjoy the chase?