remembered

Neil Gaiman, author of Sandman and quite an impressive collection of novels, posted this on his Tumblr yesterday:

This has been on my mind since I read it. The thing that bothers me, the reason I keep turning it over, is that I’ve spent a ridiculous amount of time worrying about whether I’d be remembered. I recall being thirteen, back when turning thirty seemed so far away, thinking that a) I’d probably never make it to thirty and b) probably no one would remember me very long after I died.

Now let’s just skip over the obvious self-esteem issues buried in that thought. What’s on my mind today is that at least since then I have been so concerned with the second half of that thought that I’ve never considered how I’d want to be remembered if I were.

I’m sure this is the sort of thought process that accompanies approaching middle age, or perhaps looking in the mirror and seeing your reflection reflected in your own bald pate. I’m not worried about any sort of mid-life crisis because a) no way am I replacing Ashley with a younger (or any other) model, b) I can’t afford a sports car, and c) my entire life up until about three years ago was really more or less an extended mid-life crisis.

What concerns me is that I imagine many people my age can look at their lives to this point and ask, “How would I be remembered?” and come up with a different answer than, “He just never figured out what he wanted from life so he more or less killed himself and everyone around him trying to experience everything he could.”

I’ve come to the conclusion that life is about choice, not simply the choices that we make but our willingness to make choices. And choice, unfortunately, is about exclusion. I can’t choose, for example, to read every book ever and still choose to work at being a writer. There simply isn’t enough time. We are given life in this realm because without life we would only have time and would therefore have no drive to choose. Without choice we have no cause to decide our values, our loves, our connections with each other.

My legacy to this point is but a refusal to choose. I have viewed choice as compromise and long ago vowed never to compromise. It is perhaps the only promise I’ve kept to this point.

And so now, at this point, I am aware – or as aware as I can be – of the choices I have not made and am given yet another choice: the choice to choose. How I’m remembered – not to mention whether I am – will be a direct result of my choosing or not choosing to make a choice. Luckily, the decision is mine – and only mine – to make.

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