Sometime in October 2016, our company had a farewell party for a co-worker who has dedicated 38 years of her time in service to the very same company. She never married. She is very efficient with work, never complains. If there will be someone who knows the history of the institution, she would know. She worked under all the school deans in their department.
Typically on our farewell parties, selected individuals—usually directors, department heads or representative of the department—would appreciate one’s work and contribution to the school or department during their years of service. There will be farewell messages, responses, greetings, a trip down memory lane, and special feature—either in a form of dance, music, videos or photo slideshow.
Since she is the only one leaving at that time and it so happened to be her birthday, they did something very special for her. Her officemates requested video messages from her former bosses and faculty she worked with in the past. The messages seemed to be one and the same: she is an efficient and effective worker! She is someone they can truly depend on. When they don’t know what to do, she would be there to guide them even though her title is much smaller than theirs. All of them said, that without her they would not have been able to do their responsibilities well.
Their heartfelt and humble messages truly gave warm fuzzies, even to me who simply listened, it did warmed my heart. That was some legacy she is leaving behind. Her successor have big shoes to fill. I got inspired…38 years of dedicated service! I still in my 7th year and I already feel exhausted, disappointed and unhappy at times. I had moments…
Then it hit me. What legacy would I leave behind when I’m gone?
I tried to think of some good things that people could probably say about me and my work, my performance… i tried to think of my contributions to the very institution who provide me bread-and-butter…
I thought of some, but they are hardly significant. Not strong enough to leave as a legacy.
Then i thought of what am i known for. Surely, people noticed my graphics design work on campus, but most likely only the people who asked me to do the designs and layout would know that it was my work. I thought more, “what am i identified for on campus?” Then, all my hopeful and happy thoughts snuffed out.
Currently, I was known for my tardiness. I don’t go to work on time. When i say that, it means i’m always late for an hour or two, maybe more at times. I don’t attend staff worship. I’m behind my deadlines sometimes. In short, I was hardly an ideal worker.
I used to be someone they can depend on. I used to come on time. I work long and hard. I burn the midnight oil. I used to be productive and usually finish my projects before the deadlines. I would take a bullet for our institution. People used to be amazed of my dedication. I was known for so many other good things before, but things have changed.
My priorities have changed. My perspective in life changed. My health suffered. My creative juices ran dry. My motivation died down. My inspiration became zero. I got burned out. I’m tried and barely hanging on. It’s simply just getting by through the day.
But this is just what i think of me so far. Or at least few other employees, meaning the president, the HR, my boss, my officemate… they do notice my tardiness and point it out most of the time. I stopped caring, and i didn’t even know the intensity of this problem of mine until a colleague of mine said it on public. So public that even those who doesn’t know me heard of it.
I was invited to a wedding yesterday. The groom is a colleague of mine and he asked me to bake their wedding cake as well as the cupcakes and cookies in their sweet station. My sister-in-law and I came at the venue an hour before the wedding to setup. Everything went well. Then the time for acknowledgements came. I don’t mind if my name is not mentioned, i prefer it that way. My only concern if for my baked goods to be consumed and for people to be satisfied. That is enough of an acknowledgment i need.
But to my surprise in the middle of his speech, he said thanks to me and he added that everyone knows me to be always late. He said i don’t go to work at 7:30 am or at 8 am but instead i show up at 10 (that was partly untrue, it doesn’t always happen—most of the time, i show up for work at 9 am)…but don’t worry he didn’t mean it the bad way. He added that i was a very busy person, and i work hard and i go home at 2 am. And that in spite of my busyness i managed to design, layout and print their invitations.
I wasn’t embarrassed at the comment, it’s a fact, i know. But it bothered me. And i realized, i’m identified as a tardy person. Tardiness is my identity. Tardiness is my brand name. Yes he said i am hardworking but i’m known for tardiness than my expertise or my hardwork.
it haunted me all night…until i went to work, and there’s only one person i’ve ever shared about the public testimony. So unlikely of me.
I realized, if i’m not going to do something to change my identity, to change my brand, it would forever remain that way. I would forever be known to be someone who works hard but always late. Not exactly a legacy to leave behind. Not exactly a good example. And definitely not a contribution.
So, if i would be gone—move away or die—anytime soon, i wont have a legacy to leave behind, only an identity, and worst…a negative one. It was an eye-opener, now i know how bad it was.
At least i’m still here. I still have a chance to work on a legacy that I can leave behind when i’m gone.