Would they miss you if you were gone?
What would have to change for that question to lead to a better answer?
(Today’s prompt is from Seth Godin, of Seth Godin fame.)
I would be missed. Of that I am sure. Just probably not by “them.”
There would be no fanfare, no news item. I have left no books in my wake, no fans breathlessly awaiting sequels. Whatever impact I have had in my “work” is hidden in projects that were much bigger, done mainly in the background while somebody else got to be the face of it all.
If forced, most near-strangers would probably describe me with the same sort of non-committal language that ones uses to refer to a plant. I’m part of the background, the “network of nobodies” that somebody referred to at a meeting I was at recently. (Note to self: return that email. He was on to something.)
I am, however, still of an age that, for some people, a permanent departure would be a catastrophe. (How’s that for a euphemism for dying while your children are still children?) In addition, a goodly number of people are fond enough of me that I would probably occur to them at random times, maybe even years later. I lost a friend several years ago who had regularly recommended books, authors, and movies, and I think of him in bookstores and when picking something to watch. He had more of an impact on me than he knew, I think. I miss him. I’m confident that I have those people in my life, and that I don’t know, either.
And still, there are dozens of people who appear to experience unfeigned delight when they run into me; I’m sure that for them my non-existence would register, at least momentarily. There would be head shakings and “What a pity”s.
In here is the seed of an answer to the second question. ‘Cause I know that’s not what he was talking about. And I do kinda care about that other (more legitimate) interpretation, too. (See how I got all casual there, as if it weren’t the existential terror that has driven me since my mid-teens?)
“They” would miss me, in some sense, but they wouldn’t know it. The work that I haven’t done, the book that is sketched out on the wall of my office kitchen, the workshops I’ve only half written, or that I have written but not taught, or finished but not promoted… they are unfinished business that leaves me with the sense that, “I haven’t filled my end of the bargain.”
I believe that (on the one hand), each of us brings a unique set of perspectives to the world, and that our “work” involves sharing those perspectives with one another in case we have the pieces that somebody else needs. But/and (as one of my friends puts it), I also believe that ideas and perspectives evolve and arise out of collective knowledge, and that the outcomes of our individual contributions are unpredictable.
Show up. Do what is called for. Neither withhold nor demand attention, yet speak your truth.
My work isn’t done. My children are not raised. I have not expressed all my appreciations and gratitudes.
And if I were hit by a car tomorrow, as horrible as it would be to my immediates, the world would go on without me. The fact that this no longer fills me with dread and panic is making it a lot easier to get things done.