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The International Writers Magazine:

The Last Impression
• J S Wright
What will people think of you after you've gone?


"What should I say?"
"How do I act?"
"Does my breath stink?"
"Don't mess up, don't mess up, don't mess up..."

This is what I assume are the kinds of thoughts someone has when they're worried about making a good first impression. I can't recall them myself, because I can't recall a time when I had that kind of worry. While I do admit that coming out of the gates strong does matter to a point, I also think the emphasis people put on it is all wrong – it's too much.

There's this idea that the first impression is the only impression, if you get it wrong. I'm here to say that isn't the case at all, and I’m proof of it. Depending on my mood, someone’s view of me could range from loveable and dorky to downright nuts. I've strolled away from many first-time encounters with the other person unsure if they wanted to try it again without having me put on psychotropic medication first. Yet somehow, I almost always get along with those people down the line. Outside of job interviews and within reason, a first impression can always be forgotten by the subsequent time spent with them.

That’s where the real impressions begin – in the meat of a relationship. It’s not when you’re shaking hands for the first time, it’s when you’re embracing for the fiftieth. I avoid taking someone’s actions to heart when they’re new, because, at that point, nearly every person tends to become a better version of themself. It’s only natural – I catch myself doing it sometimes. But when you really know a person and exchange your insecurities with them over coffee at three in the morning, you two are tied together on a very fundamental level. That’s the kind of impression that stays with someone.

I recently had a night like that with a friend of mine. Our friendship is a unique one. We don’t talk every day and we only see each other every couple of weeks, but there’s a trust that we’ve slowly forged over a long time and in each other’s company, we find solace from our normal lives. It was last week Wednesday, we had a spontaneous escape from our respective monotony, and we finished with a very honest coffee-infused conversation. It was the kind of verbal exchange that brings about such a release, afterward you feel as if you have learned to breathe all over again. Once our goodbyes were said, I backed out of her driveway, and soon I was on the southbound freeway headed home. The night’s remnants were still in my head and the solitude of the 3 a.m. freeway stirred up the thought, “I’d be ok with dying right now.”

What did he just say?!?

Now before you all start your assumptions, let’s get something straight. I’m not suicidal, I don’t have a death wish, I’m not being morbid, and I’m not pretending to be depressed to get attention – like those teenaged pricks on Tumblr. God, I can’t stand them.

Contrary to what you may think, that notion came from a well of content. I was content with who I was at that moment, and if I happened to die in a car accident on my way home, I would have been content with how I left the world. It’s an odd thought, I know. When I first had it a few years ago, it made me tilt my head for a moment or two. But since then, that thought has become one of my life’s philosophies. I’ve come to call it the Last Impression.

Every sentence has a period, every speech a conclusion. There’s a reason why we stress who has the last laugh and why we have a thirst for conflict resolution. Closure is the most important part, because there’s nothing else after. It’s the one last chance for one to make the effort they set out to, so that’s how I sometimes approach my life.
“If I died tonight in my sleep, or in an accident on the way home, would I be happy with the person I was?”
“Did I bring happiness to the last person I was with?”
“Are they better off now than before we met tonight?”
“Did I leave a good last impression?”

Now before I sound too much like a motivational speaker with perfect hair and an all-too orange tan, you should know that I don’t often accomplish this goal. I, like you, am only human. Unless you’re the evil Skynet. But regardless of the possible robot uprising, my encounters aren’t always wrapped up with a pretty little bow. Sometimes they’re ended with an uninspiring “smell ya later”, sometimes with bad blood, and sometimes they end when a few people realize I walked out the door ten minutes ago. So far, a good last impression is a sporadic occurrence. In fact, my last one was that same Wednesday night last week, and it probably will be for a while, until I make another that great. This is a relatively new approach and it’ll take me some time before I become proficient at it. The point is, it puts a perspective on things that many people often find morbid, but I don’t at all.

Not having a fear of death allows me to think about it objectively. I’m not a morbid guy, but I often ponder what would happen after I get shoehorned into a pine box. It’s guaranteed to happen eventually, so why not contemplate it? Some things I’ve even planned. I already have my funeral song, and my best friend knows to put those Groucho Marx glasses on me if it’s an open casket, but those are just details. What I mainly think about is the bigger picture. I wonder how the people I know would remember me and what they would say. Outside of the occasional “oh for fuck’s sake, I remember when he did that” comment, I like to think that I would be remembered as someone who left the world as a good person. Well, overall, anyway.

Sometimes, the best horse to back is the one that finishes last, and this is one of those cases. Any asshole can move past a bad first impression. That’s why so many people give their friends the disclaimer “He’s an acquired taste.” I much rather care about the last impression – I want to leave a good aftertaste. Heh, that was almost a good analogy.

The point is, that feeling I had a few nights ago made me happy person. After a night of drinks, skee-ball, coffee and conversation, I knew that if something happened to me, I would be fine with leaving it all at that last goodbye. I’m happy looking back on my last impression, and look forward to making many more.
© J S Wright December 2013

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