This I Believe

Jill - Oak Creek, Wisconsin
Entered on May 31, 2007

This I Believe

A dash, a simple means of punctuation, has the power to reduce all that I am to a mere mark on a page—or a tombstone—if I let it. In 2004, I was introduced to Linda Ellis’ poem “The Dash.” In the poem, a dash symbolizes a life–the period of time between birth and death—and begs the question, “What will you do with your dash?” From that point forward, I began to understand how important it is to make a difference in the world—to eventually be remembered for more than the dash between my birth and my death.

A few millimeters–the length of the average dash. The more I thought about my dash, the more I began to realize how insignificant I can become if I allow it. How can a life so precious be reduced to something so small? Name, date of birth, spouse’s name, date of death—the breadth of information included on a tombstone. When I am gone, will no one remember me for more than when I was born, who I was married to, and when I died?

The definition of a dash is an indication of a sudden break or change. I decided to make a change in myself. I began by reevaluating my life’s priorities. Material belongings became less important. The need for things—money, fancy cars, designer clothes, and other fineries—shifted to the need for action. Achievements became more valuable than possessions. Small changes, and a swing in the way I was thinking, started a snowball effect on my life.

I was determined to make positive changes in myself before I took on the challenge of making positive changes in the world. Little did I realize that the two had a symbiotic relationship. When I focused on improving my health, my relationships, and my environment, it was the first step to taking care of the world. Every change I made echoed like tsunami waves across an ocean. Every action of mine (both positive and negative) had a reaction that resonated like a boomerang back to me. This I keep in mind with every choice I make, no matter how insignificant it may seem.

While I certainly have not achieved all of my goals, I am definitely on my way. I have a better understanding of how to fill the gap between my dates. My impact in this world is still being carved out—the size of a crater not a scuff mark. What the future holds for me is in my hands. When my time ends, I want to be able to claim more than a few millimeters of space. This I believe…my life will not be contained by a dash!