You think this life is forever, but it’s not. That what you do really matters, but it doesn’t. That people will care when you’re gone, but they won’t.

It was not Russell Crowe but actually the great, real-life Marcus Aurelius who once said — “What we do in life, echoes in eternity.”

He was wrong.

Think of the great men and the great women who have done great things on this earth, and how we remember them, if we remember them at all.

Maybe it’s by a quote they said, or some thing they made or some act they did, or a photograph or a movie.

But their greatness was likely greatness by circumstance, not by choice. Because people who change history usually aren’t aware they’re doing it. It just happens.

And we honor them however we honor them, by looking to them as some sort of guiding light in our own lives, when we need some inspiration or some point of reference or some example to look up to.

But when they’re gone, they won’t know we’re doing that. They’re dead. It won’t matter anymore. We can throw a party in their name, put them on a stamp and create a national holiday, but they’ll never experience it.

And the truth is, time moves on and more things happen and more people do more great things, and there are more great men and women that need to be acknowledged for their greatness, and the person who was great before eventually gets forgotten. Their greatness pales in comparison to greatness that is even greater than theirs.

William Henry Harrison. Franklin Pierce. Benjamin Harrison. John Tyler.

You probably don’t recognize these names. You definitely don’t recognize these names. But they’re all former Presidents of the United States.

Imagine, someone once had one of the most important jobs in the history of this great country, and the average person has no idea who they are or even what they did. If they’re lucky, those guys have a high school or a highway named after them, and that’s it.

And the Presidents we can remember, do we really know anything about them? We just know they were President.

Maybe we know JFK had an affair with Marilyn Monroe and got assassinated, and we know FDR was in a wheelchair, and we know Nixon had Watergate, but what did these guys do? What made them who they were? What made them a President besides getting elected? We don’t know! Unless you study this stuff in school, nobody knows.

Like many other great people, they undoubtedly lived great lives, filled with many great achievements, and maybe in their day, we briefly knew what those achievements were. But by and by, life goes on and little by little, the achievements fall to the wayside, and we’re just left with whatever that one thing is we remember them for.

Time passes and one generation becomes the next, and the next after that, and a lot of memorable people, memorable stuff, memorable things get lost along the way. It doesn’t matter how remarkable, how trangressive, how important it all was in its day. It doesn’t come with. It’s gone.

There are some lucky ones. Maybe you’re one of them. Maybe you’re like Herman Melville, so insignificant and unimportant while living that your name doesn’t even get spelled properly in your obituary when you die.

And then more than 50 years after you’re gone, there is an odd interest in your work, and people are hailing some weird book you wrote about a whale — Moby Dick — as a classic. Suddenly, you’re a legend, and you don’t even know it.

But while you’re living, there is just the work itself. And the people you’re around. And who you are inside. And the world around you. And how you interact with it all.

And maybe you’re successful and maybe you’re not. Maybe you’re somewhere stuck in the middle. Not a real success. Not a real failure. You just are. You have your moments, but you’re otherwise unremarkable and everything in your life is unremarkable. You won’t be remembered. And that’s okay.

Do people love you? Do you love people? Do you do good things for others?Do you bring joy to people’s lives? Are you charitable? Do you appreciate things? Do you treat your fellow man and woman the right way? Are you a good father? Are you a good mother? Are you a good husband, wife, son, daughter or grandparent? Are you good to yourself?

Do you love yourself?

They say life is short and it is. Every moment is history as soon as it passes by, and the clock, it never stops ticking. The only things we can control are the here and the now. These moments. These seconds. They are here, and then they’re not. Reach out and grab them!

Because the greatness, the achievements, the money, the awards, the accolades, the legacy, they can’t come with you when it’s your time to go. And it’s ultimately all a bunch of nothing anyway. We are just tiny grains of sand on a beach somewhere, swept away like sand castles when the tide come in.

So in the end, what really matters is who you were. Not what you did or what you acquired or how many pieces of paper are on your wall or how many zeros are in your bank account.

All of that comes and goes and comes back again and goes some more. That is just a byproduct of life itself.

When it’s all said and done, all of this, all of it — it disappears. Gets forgotten. People move on. The long arm of history swallows it up. It just fades away.

All of this just fades away.

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Wrote for the New York Times, New York Magazine, Esquire, Rolling Stone, Vice, Fader, Vibe, XXL, MTV News, many other places.

Wrote for the New York Times, New York Magazine, Esquire, Rolling Stone, Vice, Fader, Vibe, XXL, MTV News, many other places.