I don’t know what does it, but I feel like the longer we are focused on our daily life, the less we are able to think some of those “big thoughts,” the ones that make us feel like we are learning about life. I have recently had a surprising amount of this tunnel vision, getting to the end of every day exhausted and ready for sleep.
Recently, I visited the Monticello house site, where Thomas Jefferson built his home and lived. The history of the place, including the contraptions and the functioning of the whole plantation, made me think about how hard life was before the modern age, even for people with insane amounts of wealth. It really inspired me, walking through the pretty Virginia woods, to live deliberately and to think about the impact I want to have.
It’s hard to put down on a to-do list the things that end up becoming a legacy; so many of the people whose lives I admire lived their values each day in very small ways that added up to the achievements of their lifetimes. Even so, Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence and committed high treason and started a new country when he was 33 years old. 33 is soon for me. I haven’t founded a country, as you might guess.
Part of my current stage of life is holding two opposing views in my head: one is that I need not delude myself that I will ever be famous or accomplish something encyclopedia-worthy. At the same time, I also need to keep working toward the smaller, daily and weekly goals I set for myself in order to create a life in which the extraordinary might happen, because I’ve been preparing for all potential opportunities as a writer, a teacher, a wife, a friend, a community member.
I would prefer to leave aside the impulse to be overwhelmed by the amazing things that people have done in the past, and I’d like to always take their actions as inspiration that by having my big thoughts and pursuing my daily tasks, I’m working toward something of a legacy, just like them.