Beyond pharmacy: A life considered

August 10, 2014

If you look beyond your job description, what would you find? Here are 10 questions to help you find out.

Mike LahrForty years is a long time.  Most of my life has happened during the years I have been in pharmacy.  From my very first job stocking shelves through my advanced practice as a specialized clinician, everything else has been wrapped around and integrated into my pharmacy life.

I am semi-retired these days. Between the winding down of my career and the events of the past few years, I have had reason to think more deeply about meaning and purpose in life. I started to think about my legacy - about what legacy means and what mine will be.

Everything we are

In its simplest form, our legacy is what we leave behind after we are gone. That can be lots of things: our children, our property, causes we have invested in, our portfolio. Usually it is a combination of these.

As my thinking progressed, I initiated conversations with my colleagues and friends. When I posed the question, “Have you put any time or effort into considering your legacy?” the consistent answer was, “I haven’t given it much thought.”  It surprised me that most men and women, even those close to retirement, had spent so little time on this matter.

Readers who have read my earlier columns know that my youngest son died a few years ago. After he was gone, I found an anonymous comment someone had written about him on the internet. It said, “Sam was a good friend, he would help anyone.”

Those nine words made a real impact on me. They changed the way I was thinking about legacy. Sam had a legacy, even though he was only 20 years old. Everyone at every age has a legacy. It is more than what we pass on at the end of a long, productive life. It is everything we are now. 

 

Facing the questions

I must tell you, having a dead son was not the legacy I had in mind. His death stopped me cold. It forced me to reconsider everything I know, everything I think, everything I do, everything I believe, and everything I am. It forced me to face life’s most difficult questions. 

It turned out that my questions about meaning and purpose overlapped with the questions that revolve around defining our legacy. Those questions began to become conversations, and those conversations started to give clarity, form, and structure to my initial ideas. In the end, my cohorts and I developed ideas and questions that challenged us all. 

Initially, I had the idea to distribute these questions to my friends and then compile the answers, so that we all could gain from one another’s perspectives. As the process developed, it became clear that the process could be more than that. Every time I showed the questions to someone, they asked to share them with friends or siblings or parents or children or colleagues.  On and on the process went, taking on a life of its own. 

 

Now they are yours

That brings me to you. I would like to invite you to join us in this process. Here are the 10 questions we synthesized to help us learn who and what we are. 

  • What drives you to do the things you do?

  • What have you done that matters?

  • What does it mean to be human?

  • What do you believe in?

  • What is your most prized possession?

  • What is still left to be done?

  • What do you think about the most, each day?

  • What one thing would you change?

  • What is life’s most important question?

  • What question would you add?

These questions are open-ended by design. They invite answers from any and all perspectives. They can be interpreted any way one sees fit. They can be answered in a few words or many paragraphs. There are no right answers.

They are a mirror, to help us see ourselves more clearly. 

I wish you well in defining and building your legacy.

Mike Lahris a freelance writer in Corvallis, Oregon. Contact him at MikeLahr@aol.com.