For the past year or so I’ve been part of a group on Facebook comprised of fellow elementary school students, and we often talk about our old school, now demolished, and the neighborhood and the good times we knew there. A number of our posts involve helping each other recall names and places to mind, memories that have faded with time.
Recently a fellow student mentioned being a “Camp Fire Girl.” I was a Camp Fire Girl also, and I mentioned the group I was in and who our leader was. Our leader’s daughter was a classmate of mine all through elementary school, though we went our separate ways after sixth grade. A few years ago, in looking up people online to see what they were doing now, I found this former classmate and discovered she had become a prominent attorney, traveling the world and making a difference everywhere she went. I wasn’t terribly surprised, as after sixth grade she chose to attend a junior high and high school where only the “best and brightest” academically made it through all six years, and most went on to successful careers.
With the recent mention of the Camp Fire Girls, I looked up this childhood friend again yesterday and was dismayed to learn she had passed away a few months ago. She had struggled with an autoimmune connective tissue disorder for many years, apparently, and her obituary mentioned she had given up her law practice and moved to spend her last days with family. But it also mentioned highlights of her remarkable life, and she did indeed pack a lot of life into her 58 years, leaving the world a better place than she found it because of the good work she did while here.
While I was saddened to learn of her passing, I thought about her contributions to the world and at first began thinking of that as a yardstick for my own life, which of course is a mistake. It’s wonderful that she accomplished the things she did and influenced people in a positive way, but that doesn’t lessen my own life’s accomplishments, or anyone else’s. Whether we’ve accomplished great things or not, sometimes we influence people in positive ways we know nothing about, even if some of those achievements have negative results.
But knowing her life was snuffed out after only 58 years does give me pause as to how I want to spend the rest of my own life. I, too, would like to leave the world a little better than I found it when my time comes. I think that’s where my major satisfaction in writing has been, that after I’m gone someone may be affected in a positive way by something I wrote years ago. In recent months I’ve drifted off course a bit, not writing as much as I did and letting other things take over the greater part of my days, and I’m rethinking that now.
When I turned 55 and there were events in my life that both compelled and enabled me to make some big changes in my life, I took hold of that and moved across the country to a place I’d never seen, but held a lot of promise for me, and I haven’t been disappointed in that choice. I made some other choices that didn’t change my life quite as drastically, but after a time I seemed to let myself be buffeted a bit by the choices of others. It’s time to make my own choices again now.
My friend in Japan has started reading a book called The Art of Choosing by Sheena Iyengar, as she is at some turning points in her life also. She recommended it to me and I acquired it the other day and have started reading it myself. The subject of how we make choices and the implications of those choices is fascinating to me, and I’ll talk about what I’ve gleaned from the book next week.