I got the news on Monday that a friend from my old job died Sunday night. The death was not a shock, as she'd had lymphoma for about five years and that's not something you outrun for very long.
It got me to thinking about how a lot of people I know, myself included, are sitting around moaning about how we haven't "made it" and how unhappy we are with all we haven't accomplished. My friend was my age, and in the last few years of her life, knowing that her time was short, she got married. That's it. She wrote no books, discovered no cures, ran no races, invented no machines, founded no empires, bore no children. But her life wasn't wasted. For as long as I knew her, she had a future. She had also had a past that she did not allow to fetter her. She took responsibility for her own happiness, and used the resources available to her - her parents and siblings, her relationship, her work - to pursue that happiness.
I guess that this points up the fact that most people's ambitions are misguided. I often lecture my daughter for pursuing extra-credit work at school while neglecting her homework, or for doing extra chores while her basic responsibilities remain undone. Most people want riches, glory and love everlasting while failing the very most basic principles of living a good life. People neglect their families, are indifferent to other people around them, ignore their impact on the world while they reach for things they view as "important." My friend worked hard to be a good daughter, sister, aunt, friend, co-worker. She spent a lifetime perfecting the basics of a good life and I believe that is an achievement that may not be historical, but is both notable and worthy of emulation.