My phone lit up again at 3:33 am. I set it to do not disturb, but somehow my mom’s spirit sent me a message in the middle of the night. As I type these words, I realize how crazy this sounds, but I’m not sure how else to explain it.
When mom passed away a year ago the 3 am wake-up calls began. At first, the wake-up call came often, but today it doesn’t happen so much.
Taking an awkward step deeper into the spirit world, I’ll share that the 3 is a significant number. My mom left behind 3 of us in our immediate family. It’s my reminder to carry on her legacy of holding the 3 of us together.
Don’t worry. I’m not turning this piece into a discussion of mediums and tarot cards (although those fascinate me at Halloween parties).
Today I’m pondering legacy and the seasons of life. These became very real to me when I had to say goodbye to mom. Each stage presents unique opportunities and challenges if we can look at them at a distance.
I came across this well-written piece by Mark Mason that provides a framework for the stages of life. Let’s peek at the stages he lays out and see how we can continue to grow through them.
The first stage is mimicry. We see this in our kids. They learn about the world by copying what we do. They also learn from their peers and community.
Ideally, we grow out of this stage. We’re still aware of the expectations of others, but we can act despite this awareness when our own ideals conflict. I bet you know someone stuck in this stage. Holding back on who they are because they’re too afraid of what others will think.
Fingers crossed this isn’t the image you’re staring at in the mirror each day.
Assuming this isn’t you, Let’s look at how we will parent through this phase.
I recently listened to an interview with Jamie Foxx, and he used the analogy of a bow and arrow. We are the bow and our children are the arrow. Our job is to be a guiding force and point the arrow in the right direction.
We instill them with values and prey that they land close to the target.
We also have to watch out for outside influences. Making sure we expose them to other good humans. And OH LORD the joys of managing the gates of social media.
If we take our job as a parent seriously, this is hard work. It can be the most rewarding work as we watch our children grow. There are so many moments to sit back and soak in the joy.
The next stage is exploration. This is where we find out who we are. What we like and what we don’t like. How we differ from those around us. What are our limitations? Our strengths?
My mind goes to the European backpacking trip that was the rite of passage during my college years. How did you explore your world?
The best part of this phase is the freedom to explore and test out what feels right to you (careers, relationships, places to live, whatever). Some of us miss the point of declaring our freedom to choose... lost in the worry of too many choices. I can own that one back in my college days. I was fearful to open a credit card because I didn’t know how I was going to pay it back.
We can jump in and out of the exploration phase (or any phase). Did you just leave a job because it didn’t offer you the flexibility you need? Hello, exploration phase.
Take the time you need (or can afford) to explore your options. The key is to own the phase you are in. Be honest about your need to explore. Embracing the insecurity of not knowing what will come next is hard. It takes self-compassion (especially for us planners).
If you can embrace the unknown the next hard thing is to PAY ATTENTION! Listen to what calls you. If you are seeking a new “calling”, what are people willing to pay you for?
The third stage is commitment. If you’re lucky, you’ve found your passions. You’re done searching and ready to settle into a rhythm with what you love. Instead of endless networking events, you are putting in the hard work to build your empire. Instead of the dating scene, you’re building a family.
The hard part is not getting distracted by every itch. The draw to go explore can be strong when the work is tough.
Finally, there is Legacy. You have built something to the end, or at least far enough that you want to pass it along. Maybe it’s a business, a family, or an idea. This alone is a reason to celebrate.
In the words of Andy Grammer (and the unofficial theme song for 2020)
“'Cause I'm not givin' up
I'm not givin' up, givin' up, no, not yet
Even when I'm down on my last breath
Even when they say there's nothin' left”
The gift of the legacy season is to have earned something in life worthy to pass on.
Back to my mom for a minute. Cancer tore her out of the commitment phase before she was ready. She still had so much more she wanted to do. This is the tragedy of a life taken too soon.
If we are lucky enough to reach the legacy phase, it may be our highest honor to pass on.
Legacy is the tradition of family. It’s training an apprentice to take on your business. It’s telling the story of your culture. It’s holding together the 3 that she left behind.
You don't have to chose between your personal and professional life. Here's my secret weapon for getting the family chaos to calm.