Imagine yourself in a courtroom.
You’re on the stand being questioned by a prosecutor; not because you’ve committed a crime, but because you’re defending the life you’ve lived.
This sounds like the premise of a fantasy novel or movie that would never happen in real life, but what if it did? I’d like to think I would be able to take the stand to proudly proclaim all the good things I’ve done, but would it be enough to convince a jury?
I never really thought about it for much of my life until recently. It’s been eating away at my thoughts since. I’ve been pondering what I’ve actually done with my life. I’ve been trying to figure out if I’ve actually lived a life of value.
Everything has a value attached to it in our society, even life.
Your house, your car, your credit limit and your bank account all define your net worth, but what is our life really worth? How do we define what it is that says if our lives were truly worth living?
I live in a house that’s falling apart. I don’t drive a fancy car. I’m divorced. I don’t get to see my kids much because I work a ton of hours to barely scrape by after I pay my bills. I’m not in a position to know what it’s like to live a “comfortable” life.
By these standards, I’ve failed in life.
Whether a result of laziness or stupidity, I’ve often let myself and others down. I was always told I could be so much more, but I allowed opportunities for betterment to pass me by. I barely graduated high school. I never finished college. My past actions (or inaction) have put me in a place now where I’m forced to struggle.
Having a college degree or a prestigious title with letters after my name wouldn’t necessarily define me as a good person, but it may have made things different for my situation and those around me. Maybe it would have given my family a better life with less adversity.
Like any good parent, I want to give my kids all the things I never had. If I’m not able to do so because of my previous choices, is this yet another failure on my part? I’ve cruised through life in a very selfish way. Other than working simply to pay bills, what have I really done with my life?
I think about what my legacy would be if I died today. How would people remember me? What have I done to make a difference in the world? Would anyone even know I was gone? It may sound dark and depressing to think about these things, but asking what I’ve ever done to give people a reason to remember me is an important question.
I’ll admit I’ve not been a perfect person. I’ve said, thought and done things in my life which have hurt others. I never maliciously intended to cause pain, but regardless, it happened. Knowing my past transgressions, my case is looking like it would be a hard one to defend.
It took me a long time to get to where I could not only see the wrong I’d done, but to also be able to try to change my ways. I’ve accepted my past mistakes and I’ve started to make amends where I can, but is it too little too late? Did I ever really learn from my mistakes?
I know I’ve done some good things in my life and I know I’ve made a difference in the lives of a few others, but where is the tipping point between living a good and bad life? How would a jury judge me based on the choices I’ve made?
I believe in karma. I believe in religion. I welcome hope, faith, luck, dreams, wishes, desires and everything else we cling to. These are all great, but ultimately our own free will is what matters. Our choices define where we end up in life.
At times my life does suck, but at this point I just don’t care anymore. It’s not that I’ve given up trying to better myself. I’ve just stopped worrying about what I don’t have.
I know material possessions don’t matter. Any sentimental items I have might be passed on to my children, but everything else is meaningless. Most of my possessions would probably end up in the trash if I was gone. Do I want my legacy to be leaving behind a mess for others to clean up?
I’ve accepted my finances aren’t going to change much (unless I win the lottery), so I live my life accordingly. Would I like to know how it feels to be a millionaire? Of course I would, but that’s not what drives me. I’m trying to improve my life, but I know things aren’t going to change any time soon.
Perhaps the old saying of “there’s more to life than money” has finally sunk in (probably because I don’t have any). I’m learning there is so much more out there than my inability to go on the Tahiti vacation I so desperately desire.
I’ve learned life is all about perspective.
My house may be a dump, but at least I have a roof over my head.
My car may not be the newest on the block, but at least I can get to where I need to go.
I may not be getting rich at my job, but I’m blessed enough to make ends meet, even if barely.
While I might not be able to leave my kids an inheritance of wealth, I can love them and give them the experience of having a father (something I didn’t have growing up).
I’ve stopped thinking so much about myself because I know I have expiration date. I’m not going to be around forever. I’ve stopped stressing so much about all the things I don’t have in my life so I can appreciate what I do have.
What matters in life is not what you have or who you are. It’s how you treat people.
I may not have much to give financially or materially, but there are some things I can do that don’t cost a penny. Kindness, compassion and caring are all free.
Some things I do are obvious, others aren’t, but I’m now making a conscious effort to change my ways. I’d like to think that’s what counts. It’s too bad it took me this long in life to stop being selfish, but I’m not asking for sympathy. I’m asking for opportunities to prove my worth as a good person deserving of a legacy, even if it’s with just one person.
I may be guilty in the past of not living my life to its fullest and not being the best person I could be, but the future is blank slate.
With that, I ask for forgiveness from the court.
Written by Marty Augustine