Pay It Forward
How to make the most of our limited time on Earth.
by Jill Lupine

At year’s end, most of us feel compelled to take a moment and reflect on the tally of the successes and failures we have accumulated over the past 12 months: the connections we forged, the balance of our creative pursuits, the assets we nurtured, the lessons learned from our missteps, and the ways in which we helped others, acted kindly, or otherwise tried to make the world a better place.

All of it has meaning, and all of it has worth, with each part representing a thread in the ongoing tapestry we call our legacy.
What extensions of your legacy did you leave behind in 2023? Did you save more, invest wisely, and make good decisions that will make easier the path for your family, your community, and future generations? Did you spend your time and energy breathing life into a private enterprise, or perhaps contribute to the success of a nonprofit organization that is “doing well by doing right”? Did you make art, write a book, or create some other meaningful “thing” that will live on even after you have left this world behind?
As Benjamin Franklin put it, “If you would not be forgotten as soon as you are dead and rotten, either write things worth reading or do things worth the writing.” Translation: Do something to change the world. If you feel as though you have not yet accomplished that feat, there’s no time like the present to make an amendment or two.
Deciding exactly what you want those amendments to be should begin with self-reflection. How do you want to be remembered, and by whom? Who or what do you want to spend the rest of your time helping, and what is driving that desire? What expertise, talents, or wisdom do you have to share—from your business career, from your personal life, or from the time spent pursuing your interests? What activities do you consider the most engaging or personally fulfilling? What positive changes would you like to see in the world that you believe you can have a hand in making? What actions do you need to undertake in order to get involved?
It’s always helpful to talk to people who have done something similar to what you hope to achieve, meaning people who may be able to help you learn as much from their successes as their failures. From there, assemble a plan of attack and take some measured risks to figure how best to pass along the knowledge you have acquired in the course of a life filled with ups, downs, and in-betweens.
When most of us think of the word legacy, it’s natural to think of much more than acts of kindness. It inevitably includes investments, real estate, and the contents of our bank accounts, which is why any discussion of “leaving a legacy” should involve an estate-planning attorney. Such an individual can ensure that the valuables you have accumulated in your years will continue on as you see fit—passed on to heirs, donated to worthwhile causes, or used to create something enduring.
The chaotic nature of the past several years, particularly those associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, taught us to not take for granted the things that previously seemed so unshakeable. At the same time, the pandemic spurred many of us to action, to stopping putting off the things we’ve “always wanted to do.”
The pandemic may have ended, but in many ways life seems more fragile than ever. As the late Hunter S. Thompson once wrote, “Buy the ticket, take the ride.” Get busy living and creating something that defines how you want to be remembered after your time on the earth has come to an end.
Published (and copyrighted) in Suburban Life, December 2023