Building relationships is more important than being remembered

If you're doing whatever it is in order to be remembered, then you're doing it wrong. As a matter of fact, you're probably doing life wrong. Somehow our American culture has become increasingly convinced that to be remembered by many people, to be found in the history books, is the equivalent of a life well lived. Not only is embracing this line of thought insulting to oneself, but it is an insult to all those who have ever lived before you, who lived full lives built around making the world better in their own way, only to be forgotten.

Instead, I’m here to offer you an alternative to the unreasonable expectations that have been placed upon your life: build the success of your life around the power of the individual connections that you make. You see, I was tempted to write something about the success of your life being in how many lives you change, but the more I thought about it, the more nonsensical it became. As Drew Dudley notes in his “Everyday Leadership” TedxToronto talk, “we let people who have made our lives better walk around without knowing it.” Seeing as we live in a culture where no one actively makes an effort to let others know when they have improved someone’s life, there would be no way of truly knowing how many lives you have touched. Thus, I offer that the strength, deepness and love for others found in our personal interactions, both long-lasting and fleeting, should become the standard by which we measure our lives.

If we center our interactions around a general sense of love, then our intentions and our actions will fall in line, and while this is not the method to be remembered by everyone – I still haven’t discovered the surefire way to accomplish this – it will guarantee us to be remembered by someone, and that will have to be enough for us. Every single one of us has already made a difference in the life of someone; perhaps we simply haven’t been told. I have lost count of the number of people who have made a profound difference in my life, whom I have never gone out of my way to tell. This also means that the challenge for you is to not only build positive interactions, but also to take the time to acknowledge those who have done the very same with you. To quote Hazel from "The Fault in Our Stars," hopefully without judgment, “There will come a time when there are no human beings remaining to remember that anyone ever existed or that our species ever did anything. . . And if the inevitability of human oblivion worries you, I encourage you to ignore it. God knows that’s what everyone else does.” College is meant to be a time where we can discover what actually drives us each day, and if that drive is from an attempt to be remembered, then you’re in for a rude awakening. 

A.J. James is a senior majoring in biology. His column runs biweekly.

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