December 31, 2003
Leaving A Legacy
There are many kinds of legacies. The legacy of property, of children, of ideas, of philosophies. A legacy is immortality achieved, in some form or another.
One year ago, I began to create my own legacy, in the form of my travels and my columns. I didn't consciously think, "I am going to leave a legacy." My motivation was much more immediate and much more superficial.
First, to improve my writing skills - by forcing myself to writing regularly and on deadline. Second, to keep in touch with my friends and family - in what I hoped was an entertaining and informative way. Third, to know that when my peregrination was over, my stories would remain as a personal roadmap and reminder of my travel experiences, ideas and state of mind - in what will certainly prove to be one of the most exciting and uncertain period of my life.
I've always been a writer - a private writer. I was the girl scribbling in journals about the injustice of the high school caste system, about broken hearts and breaking hearts, and about holidays and vacations full of sunset-inspired epiphanies.
But, suddenly I was 28, about to embark on an extended journey with an uncertain conclusion. While I was certain my past career endeavors were not my life's ambition, I was nonetheless at a loss for what my life's ambition COULD be. I had ideas, sure - hopes, dreams, and desires. But, nothing concrete, nothing tangible, no building blocks. I needed a goal. Even if it turned out to be the wrong one.
Those who know me well will not be surprised at my admitting that with very few exceptions, I do not run headlong into the unknown. I check the road for obstacles, take along a map, and prepare myself for the journey. Just as this trip of mine was not undertaken lightly or spontaneously, my first serious foray into writing wasn't either.
It was the only New Years' resolution I made for 2003 - a travel column per week, every week. To be quite honest, I wasn't sure I would be able to do it. It wasn't for a lack of ideas - I always have many more than I need. But, there is a huge chasm between a good idea and the ability to transform that thought into a readable travel column - as I found again and again, week after week. Sometimes I succeeded in my attempts - sometimes I failed. But what matters most, at least to me, was that I did it. And now, just a day before 2003 becomes part of the archives of history, I realize that this resolution is the only one I've ever successfully achieved.
While technical and geographical difficulties made me miss my deadline on a handful of occasions, 99% of my columns have come in on time and on deadline - without an editor or any kind of a weekly "schedule." I consider this a noteworthy accomplishment considering I have been living a life where the only distinguishing characteristic of the weekends vs the weekdays is banking hours and traffic patterns. My Tuesday deadline - more than reminding me of the day of the week - helped keep me grounded.
For many people, the days before New Years are full of memories. Regrets for the year past, and excitement for the year to come. A mini "I saw my life flashing before my eyes" moment - in which one reviews the highs and lows of the past 12 months. They are traditionally a time of resolutions, and in sticking with tradition I shall share with you mine 2004 resolution. As with last year, there is only one. Why mess with success? ;)
I call my trip my own personal version of "graduate school." And, true to its name, every day is an education. Not in a formal classroom, but in the daily life of the planet we all share. I spend each day learning - about the world around me and myself. Sometimes the lessons come easily - like Thai cooking and the price of a tuk tuk in Bangkok. Sometimes they are harder - combating loneliness and isolation while on the road. There are tests I have passed with flying colors and tests I will have to retake - again and again.
As with a traditional graduate programs, like those many of my friends are currently involved in, the end of their schooling will require a final project, a thesis. And, so will mine.
My New Years resolution is my thesis - to become a published writer.
I put no constraints on this goal - not even that of time. While my hope is that somewhere within the 365 days that will make up 2004 I will see my name in print, I would rather it take me longer, if that will ensure pride and satisfaction in my work.
This goal is not about the glory of seeing my name in print (though hey, it would be cool), or about money (because all writer's will tell you that there isn't much). It all comes down to seeing if I have what it takes - the motivation, the desire, and the talent - to call myself not just a writer, but a published one.
To all of you I wish all the best that the New Year can offer: a fresh start, a new beginning, a jumping off point. The ability to reinvent yourself, to let go of the past, to embrace the present and look forward to the future.
And, above all, the opportunity to find your own legacy - whatever that may be.
For all of you still reading, if you come upon any contests, calls for stories, or think you can help me complete my "thesis" don't hold back - write me! I've got my own ideas, but who couldn't benefits from a little help from friends? :)