An authentic legacy is created by taking ownership of one’s life.

March 8th, 2008

“No legacy is so rich as honesty.”— William Shakespeare

In life’s journey, one can blindly travel the well-worn tracks of one’s parents and ancestors, in the process stunt one’s emotional progress. Alternately, one can take ownership of their life and create an authentic legacy.

My journey of honouring my soul began in childhood—I nurtured the fundamental ways of thinking, feeling, and investing. Along with valuing empathy, courage, and truth, I stoked love, creativity, and dignity in countless ways. The decisions I made to honour my life ranged from being an obedient child to excelling in academics, and from loving my pets (even riding with my pet dog in the army truck carrying luggage) to engaging in various extra-curricular activities. As I got older, my actions got stronger. They spanned from speaking up against bullying boys in primary school to refusing to board a flight (upon learning that the film production company had placed a significant sum of the production’s budget into my baggage), and to directly confronting the advances by weak-entitled colleagues in the movie industry. Why, unlike a “good Indian woman,” I spoke up against a name-calling alcoholic in the family as well as outed a shameful cousin, a banker with two daughters, living in New York, who made sexual advances toward me—I firmly believe that shame is the sole ownership and legacy of one who generates it.

What I was unprepared for were the never-ending punishments and obstacles that resulted from my decision to “show up and lead my life.” Where this invisible contract, with integrity and courage, is challenging, the catalyst to push me down further took many forms—I was a convenient scapegoat, the lowest on the totem pole within a family structure, I lacked emotional support, and was once an actor.

It took the longest time for me to realize that signing up for ownership and accountability comes with being tested, incident after incident, day in and day out and, year after year.

Fortunately, the stories of emotionally powerful individuals, who remain undeterred in their journeys, unceasingly reassure me to stay the course. These lessons—of people refusing to succumb to silence in the name of family, cultural traditions, and crippling image—combined with the stand I took as a child, ensured I did not buckle and become society’s puppet. Instead, by taking ownership of my thoughts, intentions, and decisions, I diligently honed self-love through a sea of failures, betrayals, and rejections. And, although there were, and will be, moments of loneliness, fear, and sadness for grave loss, I know my suffering was meant to be for good to happen to other children.

Remember, an individual’s emotional legacy is crafted in the mind. As a person, if you are self-loathing and deceitful, you will destroy in unimaginable ways; if you are sneaky, abrasive, and worthless, you will move in inferior herds; and if you are emotionally poor, you will fuel your greed by chasing everything from free food to freebies. On the other hand, if you believe you are grateful, content, and joyous, you will live a simple, elegant life, letting the Joneses do the keeping up.

And, if you believe you are light, you will glow in the darkest of nights and gently guide a sea of individuals towards the brightness of a glorious morning. In this manner, what you value will come to be what defines your value.

For unique emotional legacies to germinate, don’t entertain greed for money and dominating power. Greed forces one to cave in, become less than, and remain a victim of one’s lack of self-worth. It does not let one blossom to one’s true potential. I have discovered that my consistent efforts to break away from forced societal shackles only allow me to glide with a meaningful mind and purposeful motion.

I genuinely wish children develop the desire to create authentic legacies of truth, kindness, courage, and dignity. By embarking on this path, you will walk taller with resilience, honour your soul, and nurture our world.

With compassion and courage,

Heera