On Legacies and Scarring

There is often an obsession with leaving one’s mark on the world. As highlighted by author John Green, “The marks humans leave are too often scars.”

But I have to wonder if this is necessarily such an awful thing? Yes. I acknowledge that we shouldn’t be attempting to hurt or damage those around us, but that doesn’t mean that leaving marks and having scars are necessarily bad things. Often scars are the reminders of battles won. I know personally that I carry scars- both emotional and physical- of a lot of the bad decisions that I’ve made. There’s a burn on my upper arm that reminds me to think more carefully about how I use the huge ovens at work, and that maybe I shouldn’t be wearing a t-shirt when I reach into them. There’s a sinking feeling when people bring up old friends, reminding me not to be quite so generous with my trust when I first meet people.

Without the scars? Well I think I’d have a much harder time remembering exactly why these decisions weren’t great for me. So they ultimately do me a favour, and help to keep me on a better path in my life.

I started to think about all this as I realised that my time as an editor at CUB is rapidly coming to an end. There are no more print deadlines to hurry towards, there’s no scramble for content, there’s no pressure to keep working or keep writing. And with that it’s made me wonder about the legacy I’ll leave behind me at Queen Mary.

I’d like to think that I haven’t left too many scars, or any at all, but I will take this moment not to apologise for them. I don’t mean that in a callous way, if I have hurt you I am probably very sorry for it. But I won’t apologise for leaving a scar. When it comes to it, the idea of leaving in a blaze of glory (or scandal) sounds fairly tempting; being a cautionary tale is far more appealing than fading into the background to be entirely forgotten in six months’ time.

Whilst I think that we would all rather leave a shining example and a staggering legacy behind us, whether it’s moving home, leaving a job or leaving a partner, I think the next optimal solution is to leave a few scars. Change some things. Make a difference in some way. That appeals to me far more than being entirely inconsequential.

Be they good or bad, I stand by the scars that I have. They remind me that I made it through the fights and that I did my damnedest to earn them. I am a warrior and they are my proof that I was alive and that I was here.

So maybe I won’t change the world. And maybe they won’t rename the place Queen Bethan, University of London. But maybe, if I’m lucky, my legacy will be to help people accept the scars they have and to show them with absolute pride.


Image: openDemocracy. www.flickr.com/photos/opendemocracy/
Image: openDemocracy. www.flickr.com/photos/opendemocracy/

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