Patrick Kane’s Senior Column: What is a Legacy?

World News Editor Patrick Kane reminisces on his time at The Carroll News.

Patrick Kane

World News Editor Patrick Kane reminisces on his time at The Carroll News.

Patrick Kane, World News Editor

“Legacy is a stupid thing! I don’t want a legacy.”

This seemingly clever quote was spoken by Bill Gates. And, like the Washington D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals in 2001, I’m about to tell Bill Gates where he can shove it.

What is a legacy? The immortality of one’s reputation? The impact you made on others in your lifetime? The physical mark you made on the world?

The idea of a legacy isn’t typically something that someone my age thinks about all that often. A legacy is something that rich bigwigs, academics and other assorted famous folks start angsting over once they hit 70. It’s a first-world problem way above my paygrade. I’m 22 years old, about to graduate college and the world is my oyster. Why am I sitting here on a Saturday evening, chugging a Code Red Mountain Dew while Fleetwood Mac blares on a record player in the background, waxing poetic for a college newspaper about a legacy?

Who knows? Whether by the design of a truly higher deity or simply the luck of the evolutionary draw, I have always been fascinated by my own mortality and what I want to do with the finite amount of time I have been granted on this Earth. I know it’s super cringy to invoke “Hamilton” nowadays (and for good reason), but the line “I imagine death so much it feels more like a memory” is such a succinct summary of who I am and how I think. Like every human being, I am at the center of my own universe. I certainly cannot fathom a world in which I am not present; in which I no longer exist.

That is where I think legacy reveals its definition to me. Try as I may, I will not be here forever. I need something that will outlive me, anything at all. My late grandfather once told me that everybody dies twice: once when you physically die and once you are truly and utterly forgotten. Dying sucks enough already, but I really, really don’t want to be forgotten.

So therein lies the original question: what will outlive me? What is my legacy? When I’m dead and sitting in a box on a shelf somewhere, what will be representative of the time I spent on this Earth?

Perhaps it’s the physical marks I left on this world. Maybe it’s the dirty joke I wrote in pencil on the walls of a stall in my high school bathroom. Maybe it was the unbearably cringy rap video I made in eighth grade because I decided I was going to be the next Eminem (don’t ask). Perhaps it was the pole banner my high school made that features a photo of me making a crepe that hangs up every year during our annual Languages Week that features the most awkward smile you have ever seen (in my defense, it’s not like I knew that picture would be plastered out in public and texted to me at least five times every April).

St. Ignatius High School’s banner featuring a teenage Patrick Kane and his crepe (Cat Geletka).

Part of me would like to think that part of my legacy will be found in my writing. I’ve always considered myself a writer, particularly when it comes to politics and current events. Thus, when I had the opportunity to join the award-winning Carroll News during my freshman year, I jumped at the chance to write something meaningful. I eventually worked my way up to World News Editor, where I spent the next two years ranting about Twitter, cryptocurrency, Joe Biden, the Queen dying and whatever else just so happened to piss me off that day.

By my calculations (which my high school math teachers will tell you doesn’t mean much), I have written exactly 90 pieces for this newspaper including articles, columns and multimedia pieces, along with doing additional podcast work (you’re welcome, TJ). I don’t mind telling you that that’s quite a portfolio.. These will exist forever with my name attached to them. I will concede that that all certainly is a legacy, but I struggle to argue as to whether or not it’s my definite legacy. If all I have to show for my life is a bunch of URLs on a college newspaper’s website, that would honestly be less than ideal.

So maybe my legacy is the impact I have made on other people. I know it’s cheesy and overly sentimental, but I do believe in the Golden Rule of “Treat your neighbor as yourself,” and I do try to live by it; though I will fully admit I don’t always succeed. I strive to be friendly and agreeable and helpful, whether it’s to a person I’ve known my entire life or for thirty seconds. I’ve based my entire life and political philosophy around kindness and helping my fellow man.

And who’s to say the impact that has had on others? Maybe one small act of kindness, maybe just a smile walking by, has brightened someone’s day and and they carried it forward. The butterfly effect is absolutely real , for worse and for better. I’m not trying to argue that I’m a saint (far from it), but it’s something I deliberately try to do everyday and the jury’s out on whether or not it’s been working.

Maybe my legacy lies in the ideas I’ve planted in the minds of others. A big part of writing is trying to introduce your reader to new perspectives. Something I wrote may have registered in the mind of a complete stranger, causing them to look at things a different way or providing them with a better perspective. Maybe I taught them something new. Maybe I changed a mind.

Perhaps my legacy lies in the version of myself that exists in other people’s minds. Maybe I’m the Irish-Hungarian kid from West Park who worked his way through the Catholic school system to get into a highly regarded Jesuit university. Maybe I’m that annoying ginger kid with a mustache that’s always begging Colin Swearingen for a quote on whatever terrible thing is happening in the world that week. Maybe I’m that guy from The Carroll News who always does everything Laken tells him to and follows them around like a lost puppy. Or perhaps I am the infamous “Party Pat” who briefly existed during the trip to D.C. for the European Union Simulation (I plead the Fifth regarding the details).

All, any or none of these things could be correct. That brings back the original question at hand: what is a legacy?

The answer is that I don’t know.

I know that is a total cop-out, I admit. But it’s also the truth. The sad fact of life is that no one actually knows what their legacy will be, and they will never know because, by definition, a legacy only forms after someone is gone. You can have a pretty good idea, sure, but you will never know for certain. I could be known for a lifetime of hard work and distinction or I could be known for that stupid crepe banner.

The fact of the matter is that this is something I’ve made peace with. Yet, it’s also a call to action.

Patrick Kane and Editor-in-Chief Laken Kincaid cheesing respectfully for a photo (Laken Kincaid).

As of the day I’m writing this, I am 22 days away from graduation. You could make the argument that it is only now that my life is truly beginning. I have decades of my life ahead of me (at least, I hope I do). Whatever my legacy may end up being, it’s doubtful that I’ve created it yet.

My legacy will probably lie in the choices and events of the future. As of now, I have no clue what I’m going to do with my life. I hope to continue writing in some capacity, but I might end up working in a restaurant for a living like I’ve considered before. Maybe I’ll actually put my degree to use (you know, the one I went into thousands of dollars of debt over) and enter the field of politics and government. Or maybe I’ll end up selling Korean bootlegs of Disney movies out of a van in a Giant Eagle parking lot. My point is, whatever it is that I decide to do, it will begin to carve out the mark I will leave on this world. I just have to go out and find it.

In essence, as the donning of my cap and gown draws closer, I shouldn’t worry as much as I have about my lasting impact. The path to my legacy is only just beginning. And, personally, I cannot wait for you all to find out what it is.