Yesterday, I had my first day of classes for the new semester. One of our tasks as an ice breaker was to answer a question asked to us and ask another person a new question.
It was pretty simple and a good engaging way to start the class. However, one of the questions asked had the one answering stumped and many of us thinking ourselves.
The question was essentially, “What legacy do you want to leave behind?”
This question stirred not just questions within myself on what legacy I want to leave behind, but how have legacies changed to leave the word feeling old and unused by today’s standards.
Can we call what we leave to our kids our legacy? What if all we leave behind is objects and places like houses? Would a legacy be considered what we left an imprint on that maybe cannot be carried on after we are dead?
How individuals decipher legacy
The first definition of legacy by Merriam Webster standards is a gift by will especially of money or other personal property while the second definition it holds is something transmitted by or received from an ancestor or predecessor or from the past.
A legacy being considered money may be what we would call a legacy today, possibly because that may be the only legacy of value now. But if it is not money, what else could be left behind and how does that take into account those who have started the legacy?
I have always thought of a legacy as where I can leave an imprint of my name.
I’m sure many have heard from some place or another that you die two times. The first when your body dies and the second when your name is last spoken.
This first definition of legacy is also offputting if we were to consider famous people and how we would describe their legacy.
What was the legacy of Michael Jackson?
We don’t immediately think, oh he left his children money. We think about how he changed pop music and what came from him from an influential standpoint and a creative standpoint.
So does the meaning of legacy change when we have made a big enough impact? Is legacy now considered money because it is much more common for that legacy to be fulfilled as opposed to leaving your name somewhere?
Are legacies necessary
Legacies may not seem as important depending on where you come at it.
Is the necessity of your legacy to help your children? Or is it to keep you alive after death to have creations and implications experienced by others when you are no longer around to spread it yourself?
While many of us probably want to leave what would be the old fashioned legacy, money sufficing doesn’t necessarily seem to be the true meaning of a legacy. A will isn’t an imprint you have left on society.
However, with seven billion people in the world, has the imprinting legacy become less expected and more transitional to objects we leave behind? And if so, is a will all that is needed to claim we have a legacy?
Perhaps the new meaning of legacy is less involved and more secure as a way to keep legacies alive.
The times I see legacy used the most is when someone’s reputation is at stake and their so-called legacy is threatened.
While many would agree in saying a true legacy is not necessary to leave behind and love and wealth left to children suffices as a legacy, the alternate definition may be what we all strive for. Only then, whether we accomplish that goal or not is the term legacy transitioned to what we can and will leave behind.
Legacies are not necessary, but looking from a societal standpoint, legacies are what we all strive to create.
An author wants their book to sell well and be known. An inventor wants to make an impact with a creation and become a household name. Each of us want to be talked about and kept alive after we are dead. Only doing so and accomplishing a legacy have become harder and more diluted in the process.
A legacy does not have to be strived for, but while many of us may follow the definition of an impactful legacy, a legacy to our children would complete us enough to call it such.
So what kind of legacy do you want to leave behind?
Is money and property to your children your legacy? Or do you want to have your name kept alive?
It’s all a matter of perspective and where we see our impact, no matter how big or small, defining our legacy is one we should take the time to reflect on.