A Letter To: Legacy
A letter to legacy and a dear mentor, by a youngling in a man’s man’s world.
Now, now, I’ll have to warn you I’m well aware that I might be too young to be talking about legacy. But here we are.
I’m not sure what’s struck me, at the time of writing (11.39 PM, to be precise) that I’ve jumped out of my bed to write this. In all honesty, it was probably a reverie I recalled earlier. Amongst the restlessness that has hit most of us for almost a year, zoning out is inherent. When you’re in a break from creative pursuits — and by that, I mean completely detached from it, action- and engagement-wise, aside from duty and due diligence — your mind could probably only wander. But a reverie, all stacked against anxieties, called in all the way back to a dear mentor of mine.
We’re a student at heart, perhaps even when you get to the position you want to be in, you’ll still keep learning. I was told that we were all born a student, even the most skilled creative practitioners, lawyers, what have you, all started as a student, with or without formal education. As a student, that was the most comforting thing I’ve ever heard. When you dip your toes in a pool so big it overwhelms you, everything seems to rapidly stream against you, and before you know it, you’ve caught up in the stream.
You’ve gone frail, and seconds before you’re completely lost, parts of you grow loose, drifting apart. Until a hand comes about to help you stitch yourself back together.
Whatever pool you’re in, you’re sharpening your tools with the knowledge you own while taking in as much as you can. But the journey of learning takes greater than what you know, in the way that it’s beyond the technicals and the theories. It takes on what you feel, and who you are at the core. And our system allows this, yet it doesn’t recognize it. Donella H. Meadows, whose legacy was Thinking in Systems: A Primer (I’d like to think this book is truly a gift that she had left), said that “Long before we were educated in rational analysis, we all dealt with complex systems. We are complex systems—our own bodies are magnificent examples of integrated, interconnected, self-maintaining complexity.” As students, we are complex beings. A great mentor I had the pleasure of being a former student allows and acknowledges this.
The things beyond the technicals and theories that are now embedded aren’t literally projected. They’re rather embodied. While the endless support and refreshing critical discourses are in the equation, it’s the approach that makes whole, not only in teaching but in being, when wit, kindness, and welcome as one is rare in most places. It’s the visceral push that you could feel in the air, the push to initiate conversations, and open doors, creating a sense of belonging. The sense of belonging that many in the dark deserve and still not get. Kindness, where you could see, is not a mere theory, it’s rather personified. And when these set your heart ablaze, they slowly run in your veins. In its greatest influence, they make you whole, somehow, or at least feel whole. Therefore, becoming and being is not a theory, and it takes a great teacher to teach you so.
They are what he has taught me, the things beyond the technicals and theories, and it’s the biggest legacy a teacher, a mentor could leave to a protege. They would probably never ask you to pay them back, but it’d take you less than a heartbeat to get running and pass on the baton. The legacy that is, not only you as a protege, but also the honor that comes with being their protege and passing on the baton.
I know this from the heart, the heart of a student, that anyone and anything can be a teacher. But very few can be a great one.
Here’s to all the great mentors, to yours and mine.
‘A Letter To’ is a series of letters to matters of the in-between. This first entry is dedicated to the idea of legacy and a mentor of mine, whose name I have kept anonymous. If you’re reading this, this is for you. Thank you.