Former South African president the late Nelson Mandela had paved the way for the dissolution of apartheid. He had also championed peace and social justice. AFP PIC

WHAT we do with our lives today will determine the legacy we leave behind tomorrow. It has now been two weeks into the new year and I think it is fair to say that most of us still have that burning desire to achieve our goals for 2018.

Some of you may have listed down all of your new year resolutions while some of you may only want to achieve one objective. Whatever it is that you aspire to accomplish, I would like to suggest that you also start thinking of the kind of legacy you would like to leave behind.

Perhaps this question is too heavy for the start of the year, but if you were to die tomorrow, what would you be known for? What doors and pathways have you opened up for your family, your community or even your country?

Those questions popped into my head as I was discussing the film, Hidden Figures with a few others over the weekend. In one of the scenes, Mary Jackson, one of the leading characters, appeals to the judge before her for the right to study in an all-white high school so that she may qualify to become an engineer.

Her words to the judge were: “And I, sir, plan on being an engineer at Nasa. I can’t do that without taking them classes at that all-white high school. And I can’t change the colour of my skin. So I have no choice but to be the first.”

“Out of all 100 crazy cases you hear today, which one is going to matter 100 years from now?”

Based on a true story, Hidden Figures was set during the time of the Space Race. During those years, being both a woman and an African-American were a huge hindrance to one’s career, especially in the southern states of USA, where racial segregation was still in practice.

Mary Jackson, a real life figure in American history, paved the way for other African-American women to become aeronautical engineers.

Anyone who has ever made it to the right side of history, did something revolutionary to benefit future generations, whether they knew it at that time or not.

Malala Yousafzai paved the way for young girls in Pakistan to get an education. With her intelligence and her ever-growing fame, she now champions girls’ rights to education all over the world.

Nelson Mandela paved the way for the dissolution of apartheid in South Africa. Even after leaving office, Mandela continued championing peace and social justice in his own country and around the world.

Just a week ago, British-Muslim fashion blogger, Dina Tokio, announced that she will be on the cover of British Vogue this February. Muslim fashion enthusiasts in the UK now no longer need to wonder if it is possible for Muslim women to be recognised by prestigious fashion publications such as Vogue.

So, what are YOU paving the way for?

Is your career paving the way for something great? Is your character an excellent example for those who admire you to follow?

What we do with our lives need not be ground-breaking for as long as it doesn’t undo the positive contributions that our forefathers have left behind.

For as long as we are not throwing the good virtues and ethics our parents and grandparents have instilled in us, we are still leaving something valuable for future generations to bring forward.

We are now living in a time of instant fame and success —people don’t think long enough about the kind of reputation they are creating for themselves, especially on social media where once it is out, it will forever be out there for the world to see.

Reputations are what you create for yourself while you are alive and it is susceptible to change for as long as you progress. Legacies, on the other hand, are something you will forever be known for and don’t ever think it only affects you — it will affect your family’s name and beyond.

We often don’t realise that we are where we are today not solely through our own efforts. Somewhere in the past, someone has revolutionised the way succeeding generations should live, whether it was by improving their way of life through material means or by reforming their intellect.

The opposite could also be as true: someone in the past could have done something that places our current generation at a standstill.

The Native Americans base their way of living on the Seventh Generation principle which dictates that in every decision, be it on a personal, legislative or corporate level, we must consider how it will affect our offspring seven generations into the future. They understand that the future of a country is not the work of one single person but a collective responsibility of a whole nation.

Oren Lyons, Chief of the Onondaga Nation, one of the original five constituent nations of the Iroquois Confederacy in northeast North America, states: “We are looking ahead, as is one of the first mandates given us as chiefs, to make sure and to make every decision that we make relate to the welfare and well-being of the seventh generation to come ...” “What about the seventh generation? Where are you taking them? What will they have?”

If you are still thinking of what you would like to achieve for 2018, visualise the kind of blueprint you are creating for your children to base their lives on.

Raja Sarina Iskandar is a freelance writer, a blogger at and is currently studying Arabic. She is a millennial trying to make a difference, starting with herself.

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