What do we leave behind us?
I’m not talking about leftover food or dirty laundry. I mean what happens when we’re gone?
20 years ago, if I died unexpectedly, the things I left behind would have been quite different than today. I would have left behind scribbles and scraps and other people’s memories. Old term papers. Half finished diaries filled with teenage angst. Tiny, poorly focused snapshots. Someone else’s stories about me. Signatures on office documents. Everything I left was either meant for a purpose outside of my own story or never meant for other eyes. The picture of me would have been only through cobbled together images and words, eventually forgotten. Wisps of stories, memories left in time.
Now? Piles upon piles of digital trails. Tweet streams and Facebook feeds. Blog posts, Instagram photos, forum conversations and/or arguments. Tracks left behind me, tracing every step. With every tweet or comment, we write what we are going to leave behind us. Because we most assuredly will leave it behind.
All this technology has created a wealth of stories, stories we never would have found 20 years ago. Stories that make us laugh or cry or catch our breath. Words that teach us and surprise us and make us better people.
We leave traces behind every moment. We get to write our own legacies, even though with every day and every tweet and every throwaway glib comment, that’s not what we think we’re doing. But in the end, it is. In some ways, it’s all we’re doing.
What we’ve left is what we’ve chosen to put out there. What have you chosen?
Think about it. Really think about it. If you are gone tomorrow, or even in 20 years, what are you writing or doing or publishing today? Someday, someone will read it. What will they learn about you?
I never met Amanda. I didn’t even follow her until it was too late. Which teaches me: Pay more attention.
I debated whether to make this video and debated more whether to post it. It’s not my story to tell, and I don’t know if Amanda would have wanted it told this way. But ultimately, I’ve chosen to publish it as a tribute to her, and a reminder to all of us: sometime, we will leave it behind.
I have attempted to find Amanda’s full name in order to contact her family to let them know about this project. I have been unable to find any further information. If you have any information on Amanda, please leave me a comment or contact me at zchamu at gmail.
I want to thank Amanda for sharing her story with us. I’m just the messenger.
Music: Let Her Go by Passenger. Tweets: Amanda @TrappedAtMyDesk. Originally shown at @BlissDomCanada.
My challenge to you for 2014: Look at what you’ve left behind. What is your legacy?
UPDATE January 17, 2014.
Wow. I wasn’t expecting that.
Thank you to everyone who viewed and shared the video. I hope that you have a chance to pause and reflect and send good wishes out there to Amanda and those she left behind.
I assembled this because I thought it was a lovely, touching story of a life lost too soon. I thought it was a good message, to be conscious of what you leave behind you and to live life to the fullest. I shared it at BlissDom Canada and with some folks I knew and when I posted it here I thought maybe some Ottawa people who had interacted with her would share it. I was not expecting Jezebel or Buzzfeed or The Star or the Ottawa Citizen or Reddit or anywhere else that’s posted it.
Amanda’s story has obviously stuck with others as it did with me.
To answer a few questions:
I have not heard from her family. I would still like to do so. If I do hear from them, I will proceed according to their wishes.
Because I have not heard from them, I’d like to ask anyone looking for Amanda’s family or any information on her to please proceed sensitively. This is a story of a woman who died, after all, and those left behind her are grieving. Please, if you do find anyone connected to Amanda, please treat them with kindness and sensitivity and proceed according to their wishes.
I have had many people ask me if this is real or if I think it may be a hoax account. The answer is that I believe it is real, for many reasons, otherwise I never would have assembled the video. Sure, it’s possible it’s a fake, but I don’t think so.
Be good to each other.