My daughter, Emma, leaves a trail wherever she goes. Books, clothes, plastic wrappers. We joke that you can recount her day by following her crumbs.
The backpack on the floor in the entryway lets me know she’s home from school, and the dirty bowl and open container on the table says she had yogurt for a snack. In the bathroom, I can see she was reading a book; the pants at the foot of the toilet suggest she got hot or distracted.
At eight years old, she should be able to pick up after herself a little better, and so I’m constantly reminding her that I should not be able to discern her every move by the mess she’s leaving behind. “When you share a space with someone else, you should leave the space the same way you found it. No one should be able to tell you were there,” I tell her.
Of course, that’s sort of bullshit.
We all hope those who come after us will see evidence of our existence – especially in the spaces we shared.
Sometimes, when I come across an errant pair of miniature underwear in the hallway, I think about my own trail. Like Emma, I’m leaving crumbs everywhere, and most are dropped carelessly without a thought to the impact they’ll have on whoever stumbles onto them later.
My crumbs are left on Flickr. The photos I take and choose to store tell the story of what matters most to me and how I see the world. They’re on Twitter, too, revealing my sense of humor and what types of things fascinate me. There are also hints at what annoys me and reminders of when I lose my temper. And then, of course, there is this blog, which is probably the most accurate picture of how I see myself.
Last year, conservative pundit Andrew Breitbart died unexpectedly of a heart attack. His last tweet said:
After his death, there was a lot of talk about his politics, but I couldn’t stop thinking about that last tweet. It was sent less than an hour before his death, a shot into the abyss not meant to be remarkable in any way. It occurred to me then that every tweet could be my last. And then, just by virtue of being last, it would become significant, a memorable crumb that says something about who I was.
I don’t want my last tweet to be spent calling someone a putz; I don’t think I’d mind being remembered as someone who apologizes.
Once in a while, I stop and take a look at the trail I’m leaving behind. I read over my Twitter and Facebook streams and scroll through old blog posts. Sometimes I embarrass myself, other times I’m proud of the pictures my kids might see of me. Thinking of how people will remember me when I die always makes me more conscious of the words I choose to immortalize.
That’s not to suggest that I think we shouldn’t show our dark sides. I don’t want to leave a fantasy behind, and my weaknesses are just as much a part of me as my strengths.
I guess I want the crumbs to matter. More than that, I want to be the kind of person who leaves good bits in her wake because she lives well. I want to bite my tongue and hold my texts when I’m tempted to make permanent a temporary dissatisfaction. Waiting that beat helps me remember just how temporary those moments are.
Actually, it helps me remember that every moment is temporary – and that I get to choose which ones are worth recording and recalling.
What about you? Do you ever stop and think about the trail you’re leaving behind? Is it something to be proud of, or at least content with? Is it a reflection of who you want to be?