"If I accept you as you are, I will make you worse; however, if I treat you as though you are what you are capable of becoming, I help you become that." ~Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe
On Sunday I was in Atlanta for a photography event called Promoting Passion led by the amazing artist, Brooke Shaden. I have gone to Brooke's convention every year since it's inception in 2015. I always leave feeling inspired and like I'm growing as a person and as an artist. The theme this time was Legacy. I'd like to summarize her thoughts because I believe it is so important to living our lives fully.
Do you ever think about your legacy? Even if you don't have children or beyond your family, do you ever think about your own legacy? That thing that you leave behind or way of being that you pass down? Even the messages that you are constantly sending to people by your actions and words.
I have but haven't thought of it as my legacy until now.
Everyone has a legacy. Whether or not you fulfill that legacy is entirely up to you.
I fulfill mine through artwork and photography. I fulfill mine with my message. I believe my legacy is to lift people up and empower them through photography. My legacy is to do the work on myself so that the beauty within me can honor and recognize the beauty in you. So that, I can capture it and show it to you in a photograph or artwork.
Art is a physical representation of what we leave behind, so are photographs. The Legacy is our message. Art is the messenger because art informs other generations. We find our greatest selves in what we create. In art and in life, what we create and manifest is a representation of who we are.
But most of the time we don't think about legacy because we believe we are insignificant.
Believing you are insignificant is easy. It takes away our autonomy and responsibility. Believing you can change the world is much more difficult. We play into insignificance by comparison, fear and sameness. We can diminish all of that by trusting ourselves.
You have a whole lifetime to accomplish your legacy so don't put an expectation on it. That's how you damage trust with yourself...with unrealistic timelines.
So the big question is, are the assumptions and expectations you have about yourself liberating or diminishing? Really look at this question. We have this one life. Don't diminish it.
Yet, I feel like we diminish it all the time. We are very much an instant gratification culture. We buy into perfectionism. We don't seem to be a culture too concerned with legacy.
Because, legacy is not waiting on perfection; it's waiting on action. And what stops us from acting? Fear.
Our fear is not that someone will say something untrue, but that they will shine a light on our own perceived insignificance and it will be too true to confront. (Whoa!)
We must change this narrative.
How do we change the narrative? We stop answering difficult questions with easy answers. Take a lot of time to know yourself deeply. Stop putting deadlines on undiscovered territory. Find a way to break yourself so that you can rebuild how you like. Let yourself be lost, and let that feel terrible.
On the other side of all that is you waiting to rediscover yourself and set forth your legacy.
How do you want to be remembered? What do you want to pass down? How do you want to impact others now and when you're gone? It doesn't have to be huge. Sometimes the things that seem insignificant like a passing comment can change people lives forever. You are that powerful, and so is what you leave behind.
Let's start living the life we are meant to live and let our message and legacy speak for itself.
I chose this art work because the clock has been passed down in my family for generations. This is Miss Jimmy's clock, my father's grandmother. Her husband gave this to her as a gift on their wedding night. It was passed down to my father. And he passed it on to me. I created art with it which is one thing that I will be leaving behind as part of my legacy and hers.
*This blog is in large part a summary of Brooke's talk at Promoting Passion with some thoughts from me woven in. Brooke is a wise, old soul. You can check out her work at www.brookeshaden.com.