Of the common lies told to you by people scared of life (which I will make a post on later) one of them is that somehow there is value or importance in carrying on a name or leaving your genetic material behind in the form of a child. And commonly I am asked when people find out I had a vasectomy;
"Don't you want to leave a legacy behind?"
I look at them funny, because I'm curious what they believe the definition of "legacy" to be. So obviously, it's time for another lesson.
Understand simply doing what an estimated 50 billion humans have been doing for the past 2 million years (breeding) is nothing great, nothing grandiose, and nothing special. I don't care how many "baby showers" there are or how many trillions of dollars are spent, or how precious you think you're little baby is.
Humans are INCREDIBLY common
and none of us in the universal sense are special.
Having said that though, what I don't understand is when people have a kid, in terms of their own personal legacy they seem to forfeit their individuality and any dreams they may have had, and instead focus on the child. Now understand I am NOT saying that if you bring a child into the world, your first and foremost responsibility should not be that child. It should be. What I'm saying is the instance a couple has a child, it's as if 100% of their own personal achievements now have no meaning. How so many people now pride themselves off of simply bringing another human being into the world, and then like a tired runner, "eh, that's far enough. I've exercised enough for the day."
Forget climbing Mt. Everest.
Forget starting that company.
Forget white water rafting in Colorado.
Forget the 3 month vacation in the south of Europe.
And forget that book you always wanted to write.
My life is defined by my ability to test the temperature of Gerber food.
Now, before I go on, I want to discern very clearly what my criticism is here.
It is not "having children." It is not, "whooping up the DINK lifestyle." It is not "mocking people who have children."
It is a genuine question of curiosity - "What changes in people when they have a kid that they now think their legacy is limited to, defined by and embodied in that kid?"
Or another way to put it,
"Why does the focus of one's personal legacy go to another human being?"
Now I can't answer these questions (but I welcome other people to try), but what I can do is refocus people's thoughts as to what truly is going to be your legacy, because "legacy" is not what you "feel" it should be. It's going to be what it IS.
In short your legacy is YOURS. YOU will determine YOUR legacy, not your child. It will be your mark on this planet, how you did unique and interesting things specific to you, and how people will remember you by. The fact you had a kid does NOT affect your legacy, simply because they're so common. Having kids is nothing special. But starting a company IS special. Working on art or rebuilding old cars IS special. Writing music, climbing mountains, competing in sports, writing books, heck, there was a guy on "The Tonight Show" who took bird droppings and made jewelry out of them! Those things ARE special.
And the reason I bring it up is really not to mock people who have the ho-hum life and can't understand why I don't want to carry on a last name or leave some of my genes behind. It's to wake those people up and say, "Hey, buddy, I know you have a kid. But you also have your own unique and interesting life. What do YOU want to do with it? You can't just want to sit around all day doing the same ol', same ol' all the time. You can't think your only purpose in life was to bring that kid into the world? Because, by default logic, what's his/her purpose? Merely to do the same?"
And it's not even that having a legacy is a mutually exclusive event with having children. If anything it's a complimentary event that enhances both your lives through hobbies. How great would it be to rebuild a classic car with your dad? Or build kites from scratch? Or brew beer together? Or...um...do whatever girly things moms and daughters find interesting. Having a true legacy will only benefit your child.
Of course, maybe I'm being too optimistic for the average American family today. I picture chemistry sets, go karts, writing books, working in the garage on inventions and other 1950s-esque scenes in my mind with a clean cut father with a pipe in his hand passing on his wisdom, skills and inventions. Perhaps I should just accept the average "legacy" will be "your father like baseball" and "your mother liked reading Harlequin romance novels."