An old college friend got in touch with me through LinkedIn. I hadn’t heard from him in over 35 years. He wanted to catch up on my life, but I honestly think he wanted to catch me up on his life. After scrolling through the description of his life, which he earnestly shared, frankly the emails read like an unedited resume, I was not really sure what his intentions were.
Over this past weekend I shared his email with a few of my girlfriends and their husbands who were all fascinated — at first. As I started reading, the gang was doing a lot of oohing and ahing. This guy is clearly a superstar. One accomplishment after the next was described in full detail, and as I read on, the group’s commentary was unstoppable.
The men were starting to shrink in their chairs laughing hysterically about how minuscule their own lives looked in comparison. Who does all this stuff? How can he be so good at all these things? And you could see the guys starting to feel competitive with this unknown retiree, this old college friend who they would most likely would never meet.
You couldn’t not be impressed — we all were but, at the same time, this litany of stellar moments was becoming a tad grating to listen to.
It started out as a review of stand out moments in his career of which there were many – then it moved to his children’s accomplishments and now retired – his interest/hobbies. This could have filled a small library.
And we talked about why this man would bother to write this all down to his college friend he hadn’t seen in 35 years.
Who cares? Why should I care? Why did he care to share it? Why did we even care to talk about it – to comment on it – to analyze it?
We analyzed whether it was an attempt to flirt – to look for an “opening” to seek out some on-line adventure but – that didn’t seem to fly. There was no spark and it was hard to “read into” any intention for foreplay from his words.
Perhaps it was just that he was newly retired, prompting him to reach out to an old friend and fill some void. We weren’t certain about the motivation but definitely everything he had done in his life was purposeful, so it was hard to dismiss his attempt to connect as casual.
No matter – what struck us all was the amount of stuff this man had accomplished by his late 50’s.
Let’s just say hand-building his own wooden kayak for his oceanic adventures was just one of his activities. Being featured in a national adventure magazine for his courageous kayak expedition was not just a footnote. His artistic outlet was jaw dropping — elegant ceramics showcased on his website could qualify for The American Craft Museum. Oh, should we mention his primary career for which he has been recognized and pictured in the New York Times for a scientific breakthrough.
And by the way – just because he walked on the moon — who cares?
We’re never meeting this guy, the gang conceded – but we couldn’t stop talking about him.
Our conversation started to drift from provocateur to why we really were all ears about this unknown person.
And here’s the big takeaway we were left with. If we were to write our own story and send it to a friend what would we want to highlight? Each of us had reached out or discovered old friends and classmates through Facebook and we talked about how we went about “catching up” — what we actually chose to share or not.
The conversation moved from casual catch ups to the bigger stuff – to legacies. The listology of our lives and the stellar standouts — what we have done to get to this point and even deeper stuff like — Have we made a difference? What will we be remembered for? Who is gonna talk about us when we’re gone?
As we age and imagine the footprint we leave behind what will endure? Will our memory be set in stone or will our mark fade, or do we even think about that? Do we care who tells our story? Are we consciously trying to leave a story behind for our families, friends, in our communities or even perhaps globally? Who do we want to be remembered by?
And those big thoughts were triggered by an innocuous LinkedIn friend who was looking to connect at this later stage of life.
If you have been lucky enough to see the new musical, “Hamilton,” or downloaded the music – you may have heard the song: “Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story” This moving song hits at the heartstrings of our leave behinds — our legacy.
We were pretty exhausted from all this deep thinking and fell onto the couch to watch the Mets nail it. Thank God for baseball.