I heard a story yesterday about a man who was slotted to receive the Nobel prize in medicine. He died two days before he heard about his hard-earned honor. He had prolonged his own life with the cancer-fighting drugs that earned him the prize.
Can you imagine?
For some reason this story strikes a chord in me. I'm not sure that I can articulate it but it has something to do with legacy, with devotion, with recognition.
I think that's a real struggle of mine with growing up. If you'd ask me what I want for my life, there is a definite part of me that wants to be known for something. And when I say known, I don't just mean the deep kind of knowing that I desire from my husband, from my family, from a few close friends who really get me (or at least as much as one can really know of another).
There is absolutely that desire but that's not what I'm talking about here.
I mean to be largely known, recognized, celebrated even (as cheesy and probably pompous as that sounds). I'm not sure if that's normal or not. I like to think that it is.
It's been part of me for a long time now, as evidenced by a diary entry made in my pre-teen days that listed out what I would do with my fortune and fame When I'm Famous. Oh yes I did. (Bonus points for at least wanting to share it with others--buy my cousin a car, treat the family to an awesome vacation? No? Still weird? ha.)
When I was 12 this desire really was to be a celebrity of some sort but today it is not. Sure, there was the time I had to write my own obituary in college (don't ask) and wrote that I died on Oprah as my critically-acclaimed book interview was interrupted with the surprise that in fact it was OPRAH'S FAVORITE THI-INGS! And I died of shock...you've got me there.
But nowadays, celebrity life sounds absolutely dreadful. I'm a Midwestern girl at heart. I have no place in my life for any sort of Hollywood glamour and I would TOTALLY FREAK OUT with the invasion of privacy that we expect from our celebrities.
The (long winded) point is, the desire for this celebrity is not in the fame as we ordinarily think of the word, it is not for the money (although I would definitely enjoy it for awhile, don't get me wrong) and it is not in the day-to-day wine and dine. It is the idea of legacy. Of my life mattering in some larger sense of the word. Of for some reason believing that if I do not leave a lasting impact on the world in some fashion, I failed.
And yet...if you would ask me whose lives are living legacies to me, I would tick off people who worked every day, who raised their families well, who raised me well, who were faithful in the small things. Who had character. Who were honest. Who are not rich. Who are my heroes.
And how often do they get recognized? Get the Nobel Prize for Living Well or Living For Others or Sacrificing Day After Day For A Handful of People in the World?
And how many of those people would do it anyway, who do it anyway, who even if they received their grand, life's work-prize days after death would shrug and still say with certainty I would do it again?
...and would I?