Some children are afraid of the dark, or spiders, or broccoli. I was always afraid of not being remembered – that one day I'd be gone from this earth before anybody could notice. Even when I thought of how I would like to be remembered, I could not seem to fill in the blanks of my own epitaph.
I started my life trying to be memorable for who I would become. I thought if I "made it out," moved away from Medford, MA, the blue-collar city where I grew up, to Yale and then a finance job that paid me well, then maybe, I would live in someone's memory. Years later, sitting at that job, I realized that I had not done much – my time had been spent building myself up and contributing little to the world around me. I thought again of those words to be etched in stone and my childhood worries soon returned.
"Here lies a man who sat at a desk. He worked late. He collected a check. He did little else."
The day I left my job, I vowed to revise my plan of who I should be. Once class started, the leaders who stood out to me long after our discussions were not those who made the most or climbed the fastest. They were those who surmounted obstacles and devoted themselves to ideas and people. Who they were mattered much less than how they lived. I had it wrong. As the second year began, I decided that I want to be remembered for what I will do, to fill that epitaph with as many things as possible.
I will be the person who makes things happen.
I will fix the most intractable problems, in health care, in education and elsewhere.
I will live this life in service of others, not just of myself, and raise good kids who will do the same.
I will make my spouse feel special every day.
I will enjoy the beauty of more places, and say "Thank you" in more languages.