Leaving a mark on the world may sound like an egotistical
pursuit. In actuality, this particular accomplishment goes well beyond your
ego. Regardless of whether the mark you leave is good or evil, by definition it
affects other people. If it didn’t, you couldn’t call it a mark on the world.
Even small marks can be significant.
To convey my message here, I’m going to talk about something that I never have publicly (i.e. in writing). 12 years ago, my older brother died from a rare form of cancer. He was 18 years old, and I was 9. Because I was so young when he died I was limited in how well I knew him, even though he was my brother. Sure, I had spent plenty of time around him, but I never had the opportunity to have meaningful conversations with him—I was simply too young for it. Plus, when he was sick he didn’t want me to see him in such a weak state: it was too much for his pride (and understandably so).
Fortunately, my brother left a few marks on the world. They are small, but they are big enough to have an impact on me: they are enough for me to get an idea of who he was, how he thought, and what his life was like.
Just prior to writing this article, I was putting some things away in the attic of my house. While I was up there I came across a ripped garbage bag that ripped even more when I grabbed it. I looked inside, and it was full of my brother’s stuff. It was like finding ancient relics. Among other things, there were clothes, worksheets from school (which are nearly 20 years old now), and drawings. I never witnessed it first-hand while he was alive, but I know from his leftover things that my brother had an ability to draw. Looking at his drawings confirms that a person’s art is a window into their mind: his style and subject matter roughly match the impression I’ve had of him as well as the stories I have been told about him.
The garage also bears treasures. On one wall of the garage, there are four oval-shaped areas where the wall is pressed in. I know without even asking anyone that those are from my brother’s fists, because when he was sick he punched holes in the wall (in various places, in addition to the garage). At the time that it happened, I’m sure my parents wanted to wring his neck. Now, though, the holes are a memory—they are a reminder of what happened, what can happen, and what could have been.
To the left of the holes are words written in marker. If I had been my current age when my brother wrote those, I probably would have yelled at him for defacing the garage wall. Now, even when I see the vulgarities written there I chuckle, due to the context those words exist in.
At the time that all of these things were created, they probably seemed like small matters. Now, they are a big deal because they have lasted, and they are all that remain of a life that has passed on from this world.
Maybe you’ve given thought to the mark you will leave on this world, maybe you haven’t. However big a mark you want to leave, at least take care of your creations—whatever they may be. Even if they don’t seem special now, someone may find them valuable after you die.