The Art of What Matters

img_0924“The thing I realize is, that it’s not what you take, it’s what you leave”- Jennifer Niven, All the Bright Places

Let me just start by saying that this quote is wonderful. Even more so, this book is breathtakingly beautiful. Besides the point, this quote raises a very important aspect that many neglect to notice. Lately this quote has become more meaningful to me than it has before. I wasn’t too fond of it at first because it kind of states the obvious and I have always been the one who looks into unusual quotes to find deeper meanings. However, upon pondering the meaning of what matters in this life, I have come to the conclusion that it isn’t as obvious as I thought it was. In fact, it’s far from it.

Day by day, many people go on taking chances or taking opportunities that they have in front of them. Taking things that they think may be beneficial to them in the long run. However, many people don’t stop to leave anything behind. They just take and take and take until they are finishing with everything. What’s left after that though? Is there any compensation for taking what’s there? At the end of the day, would you be proud with all of the possessions that you have gained? Or would you have just skimmed the surface of what you are capable of?

As I examine my own life, I realize that I’ve taken a lot of opportunities. I’ve taken scholarships. I’ve taken volunteer offers. Small, minuscule things to the rest of the world, but I’m just starting out. There are more chances that I will likely leap at the chance of. That’s normal. We are meant to take chances. We are meant for mind-blowing opportunities. We are human. However, when I view my life, I don’t just want to see a bunch of things that I took. I want to be able to say that I left something for someone. That I left more than what I took.

The quote above came across to me as I was searching for answers to my friend’s death. Stancil was the complete opposite of everyone I had ever met. She was different for me. But it also may be because she was special to me. However, she took less than anyone I’ve ever known. Granted, as teenagers, we aren’t given the opportunity for bigger things to jump out at us because we are young. Instead, she focused most of her time on people. I was one of those people. I don’t think it was intentional actually. But it was done all the same. She was passionate about a lot of things. She participated in a lot of things. But she also was there for a lot of people. When she died, she left behind these people who loved her for being her. Me being one of them. She left her family. She left people whose lives she didn’t even know she touched. She left her boyfriend. She left her friend. She left me. Now I’ve spent a lot of time wishing that she could just come back. Wishing that I could hear her laugh more and watch her talk about something that she is passionate about. Then I begin thinking that even though she wasn’t given many opportunities to take, she found ways to leave her mark. Especially on me. She made the world better for me. A world that was easier to wake up to. Now it’s difficult.

From this, I began to evaluate what I was doing. Was I taking the time to leave things for other people like she had done for me? After all, it’s not what you take that is important. Just as in the novel, Finch didn’t care what he took. He just cared what he left. This quote essentially changed the way I looked at things in my life.

At the end of the day, I want to be able to say that I did something to help someone. I want to say that I took some things, but gave everything I had. After all, you won’t be remembered by the chances you take or the opportunities you take. However, you will be remembered by the lives you touched with the chances you had. That’s how I believe Stancil is remembered. And I believe that is exactly what Violet Markey would say about Theodore Finch.