how are you going to leave your mark?

Recently I engaged in one of those deep heart to heart conversations with a bloggy friend in which we discussed really trivial meaningful matters like which football team has the best uniform and if the Indigo Girls might be coming out with a new CD. Eventually it turned into a more cerebral conversation about who we are and what we want most out of life.

When confronted with the question, “What do you want out of life?” I responded with, “To leave a mark.”

When my kids were born I gained a sense of purpose that I had never felt before and now, one of the things I want most out of life now is to be a good mom; to raise them so that they don’t spend too much time on a shrink’s couch, on a pole, or shooting up. Part of leaving my mark is raising smart, independent women who go for their dreams and become upstanding citizens who rule the world.

But there is a second part to that. With the birth of my girls I gained a renewed sense of determination to go for my own dreams. To lead by example, and leave my own mark; something that makes them proud of their mom. And something that remains behind after I am gone.

Some backstory: In the mid 80’s my dad’s brother, my Uncle John, set out to write a biography about our ancestor, William Austin Burt who had been a land surveyor in Upper Peninsula Michigan in the 1800’s. William Austin Burt invented one of the first solar compases, which now sits in the Smithsonian in Washington DC, and accomplished enough in a lifetime to fill an entire book. William Austin Burt and his sons were big time, seriously. Like Totally. Bad. Ass.

My dad helped my Uncle John edit his book and in 1987 the labor of love was finally published. The title of the book was “They Left Their Mark.”

Fast forward fourteen years later, to the end of my dad’s life. In the weeks leading up to his death he received accolades from countless organizations that wanted to honor him before he was gone. He also received countless cards from friends and colleagues who wanted to thank him for helping them out in some way, for his guidance and his leadership. I sifted through each card in awe of his accomplishements and selfless acts. I had always known that he had been successful in his career, but had never realized, until after he was gone, the impact he had on the city and even more importantly on the people with whom he had done business. It occured to me that he had truly left his mark; on the city, on his colleagues, and on me.

His life, as well as my uncle’s and all of my ancestor’s, have been inspirational to me to leave a mark. It’s hard to know exactly what that mark is, though I feel like my book project is a start in that direction. I’ve been slacking on my book lately, which I will be blogging about more next week but for now, I want to pose the question to you…

What do you want most out of life? How will you, dear readers, leave your mark?



  1. 1

    What a great post, MMS!

    I completely relate to wanting to leave a mark. (And YOU will, you will.)

    How I plan to leave a mark? To finally finish my book. To write has been a longtime dream for me (think first grade) and if I can call myself a "real" writer one day, I will be happy. And I will know that my kids will have witnessed me accomplish my dream. And they will be inspired to do the same.

    I will cry when I finish my first draft b/c I will know that I finally achieved something that’s been inside of me for so long.

    As for you, your book will go places. FOR SURE.

  2. 2
    Amy B. says:

    I love this post. I do. And I promise I will think about it and take it to heart and lie awake in bed wondering what my mark will be.

    But does it make me a bad person if the first thing I thought of was how often I yell "That’s gonna leave a mark!" at my kids when they’re doing something stupid?

  3. 3
    stefanie says:

    I don’t ever think about leaving a mark. Does that make me lazy? I do things for the now and never think about what that means when I am gone. I liked that about myself 10 minutes ago. Now I am feeling like an underachiever.

  4. 4

    I hope you keep at it with your book project Mary! See it through, even if that means self-publishing. My friend just self-published hers and it has not only paid for itself through sales, but she has been invited to a lot of different speaking engagements.

    A book is also part of the way I want to leave my mark. Whether it is ever published or not, it is somehow important for me to cultivate the discipline to stick with the process from the beginning, middle, and end.

    I mainly want to keep coming up with creative ways to help with the causes I really believe in. At the moment, that is stopping the horrible practice of shark finning in Costa Rica, which has killed 90-percent of the ocean’s sharks.

    Without causes to believe in and get behind, I really think I wouldn’t be getting as much out of life.

  5. 5

    These are questions I ask myself daily… wish I had better answers though!
    Great post!

  6. 6
    Crystal says:

    I ask myself this question a lot – but I always have so many different answers it’s hard to choose which one is "the one", you know?

  7. 7
    Laura Lee says:

    I plan to make Children and Art.

  8. 8
    Theresa says:

    All I want to do is run over and give you a huge hug!!! I love this post.

  9. 9
    Christina says:

    Having my kids has also inspired me to do SOMETHING. Still trying to figure out exactly what that something is…. but, I have a few ideas.
    So excited for you and your journey ahead. You book will be ah-mazing.

  10. 10

    I haven’t thought of it that way before. Up till now, I’ve been OK with being a good wife, mom, daughter, sister and friend. I’d like to be remembered for being smart, kind and a good person. But, perhaps I’ll want more. Good food for thought.

  11. 11
    Suzette says:

    Hmm… this required some serious soul searching! But, I think I may have come up with my version of leaving ‘my mark’.

    I hope my mark will be a little of me imbedded in my children. I hope they are good people, community oriented like me, compassionate, and self-sufficient. I hope they finish what they start; follow through with their committments; achieve something they were afraid to engage in; but above all that they are self relaint and that others may rely on them.

    TMI, but there it is:)

  12. 12
    Sugar Jones says:

    I love the idea of spending my final days reading the thoughts of all the people I might have somehow touched. How blessed your father was to have that. And you, too, to know what a wonderful man he was to so many.

    My dad was an ass. That’s why I am this way.

    Anyway… so about marks… I suppose we leave our mark in big and little ways all over the place. I try to teach the kids that it’s important to do for others, and I know that in those moments, we touch people. I suppose that’s the mark I want to leave behind… raising children that love their neighbors.

    But if I get published or my own network show, that would be cool, too. ;)

  13. 13
    MomZombie says:

    I didn’t know you had Yooper blood in you. That’s a fascinating story about your ancestry. I struggle all the time with how I’ll leave my mark on this world. I guess if I pass on some good quality to my children and their children, that will be enough. I thought maybe through my writing, but who knows?
    BTW I attended a writer’s meeting recently which addressed the whole issue of getting published. If you are interested in what was shared (you may already know all of this but I thought I’d at least pass it on if you are interested) let me know.

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