What’s Your Legacy?


Certain nebulous concepts get under my skin for no good reason. They’re just not that important but I get stuck on them. Legacies have been haunting me.

A few years ago I was chitchatting with a friend and I guess the conversation must’ve turned to dying. Who knows what prompted it, I’m lighthearted that way. The issue was how you should spend your last days.

Friend: I would want my family around me, you know, my legacy.
Me: Ew, gross.

I guess it’s comforting to some to be surrounded by loved ones rather the kicking the bucket all by your lonesome. What gave me the creeps was the word legacy. Children=not my future, and deriving peace from being surrounded by the fruit of your loins and their loins, surveying the scene from your deathbed like, “ah, see what I’ve created” can’t be as good as it gets. Progeny as legacy is depressing not uplifting.

Recently at a birthday party another friend had just parted ways with her boyfriend (or whatever he was—I don’t think she ever called him that but it seemed exclusive and lasted for a chunk of time). Honestly, I never had a strong opinion on the guy one way or the other but you’d better believe I changed my tune once I heard what he’d said. No, not “it’s not you, it’s me” or “if I can’t have you no one can.” Uh, it was “You’re keeping me from creating my legacy.”

What the fuck? That’s a serious chop-buster. Talk about abuse. “Bitch, no woman of mine is standing between me and my legacy!” That begged the obvious question as to what exactly this stifled legacy was. No one knew. This was one of the funniest things I’d heard in my life (or at least in Q2 2007).

I then had to ask James “what’s a legacy?” and he started rambling on about work. It seems that a legacy is whatever you want it to be. You know, like an inkblot.

But in the past week and a half I was baffled when two of my now finaled TV shows dared utter the grotesque L word. Two Mondays ago on 24, the little Aryan man-child was being sweet talked by his nutty grandpa into coming to China and enacting some diabolical mentorship. But the kid wasn’t going for it and relayed the news to Uncle Jack but not quite accurately because he threw in the word legacy. James Cromwell never uttered such a thing. Out of the mouths of babes. The kid was putting the cart before the horse if he was already imaging himself to carry on the Bauer legacy. Please. And then I thought Uncle Jack was going to be revealed as Father Jack but lack of love child intrigue was the least of this season’s problems.

This Monday Heroes touched on the concept a bit too, but somehow it’s less disconcerting when superheroes and saving the world are involved. Lest I thought my ears were playing tricks on me, the dreaded word appeared right on screen, Sulu to son.

Why all the concern over legacies? Sure, death is kind of scary but dwelling on the mark you’ll leave, physically, metaphorically, whatever, after you’re gone is disturbing. I guess because it’s presumptuous, and also because it’s lazy. Why not do shit now? Maybe I’m just jealous because I don’t have a legacy to speak of.

10 thoughts on “What’s Your Legacy?

  1. You’re totally right here… Completely. I think the idea of “legacy” is so prevalent in our culture of entrepreneurs and free spirits because there have been so many people that have created something great in their lifetime. Living a happy, fulfilling life is just not enough for some people. They want to be KNOWN for something (whether it is their children, or fat bank account, etc.) when they die. But – did the people that left a substantial and well known legacy really TRY to complete this abstract idea that doesn’t really fit into a singular definition? I think no… I think most times at least, these are people that lived their lives, had a great mix of luck and hard work, and their “legacy” was created out of their life (not their life being created by their legacy).

    So in short, your friend’s boyfriend is totally fucked up for bringing up the whole legacy issue – and my money is on the idea that he was banging some other girl.

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