Are You Leaving a Trail You Can Be Proud Of?

Thursday, April 25th, 2013

trail in the rainforest

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:

“I called you a putz cause I thought you werebeing intentionally disingenuous. If not I apologize. @CenLamar @dust92

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?

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  1. Bonnie says:

    I ALWAYS think before I post, for pretty much just this reason.

    Also, when I get a friend request on Facebook, especially if it’s someone I don’t know well, I review their feed to determine what kind of a poster they are. I have no room for a negative, whiny person in my life.

    It’s interesting, however, that people don’t always realize how negatively they are being perceived. I definitely don’t allow those people to be my friends, Facebook or otherwise.

    • Miss Britt says:

      It never occurred to me to look at someone’s Facebook wall before accepting a friend request – but it definitely influences my decision to hide some people!

  2. Megan says:

    This is probably the reason that you don’t see much from me on Facebook and Twitter on a a daily basis. I don’t feel that every thought that passes through my brain merits sharing, so I wait until I have something to say.

    I want the trail I leave to be one of beauty and intelligence. Those who know me are aware of my flaws; I don’t think strangers need that part of me.
    Megan’s most recent post: Portrait: Sebastian In The Morning

    • Miss Britt says:

      I tend to think most of what passes through my brain DOES need sharing, because I think I’m hilarious.

      I’m trying to learn to be a little more discerning. ;-)

  3. Rachel says:

    I love this so much. Yes. Yes. Yes <3
    Rachel’s most recent post: California Avocado Cinco de Mayo Recipe Fiesta Link-Up and Giveaway

  4. Dawn says:

    Terrific post.

    Yes, I’m still reading. Not commenting, but always reading.

  5. daniel says:

    We need reminding from time to time. Sometimes we are able to remind ourselves, sometimes it takes an outside force. At times I really do try to be more positive, because I am all too aware of how it can all be gone in an instant.
    daniel’s most recent post: Travel List

    • Miss Britt says:

      You know, I don’t worry too much about being too positive all the time. I mean, sometimes I use social media to reach out when I’m in a dark place and need to connect. I think that’s OK; those moments are just as real and worthy of being remembered.

      Making fun of a stranger at the grocery store? That’s more likely something I’ll avoid putting on my permanent record.

  6. Amy says:

    I love your crumbs and they are remarkably You.

  7. [...] What trail are you leaving behind via Miss Britt [...]

  8. Melizzard says:

    A few years back I deleted the first 5 years of my blog for just this very reason. I wish now I had been more selective because it’s wasn’t all snarky but at the time it felt like a fresh start.
    Melizzard’s most recent post: Melanoma Scar Update

    • Miss Britt says:

      I have gone back and forth on that. I decided to delete a few posts, but mostly it’s all there (just not as easy to find as the newer stuff!)

      Instead of trying to erase old crumbs, I try to focus on leaving new ones. I hope someone will look back at all of it and see the journey.

  9. Poppy says:

    I love that you are sharing this knowledge. Thank you. This is a highly emotional intelligent revelation, to not want your last utterance into the world to be one of toxicity or negativity or judgment but to also be able to leave your authentic, vulnerable self out there for the world to know.

    As I like to say in my head, ça me plaît.
    Poppy’s most recent post: coating

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