Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of articles titled “The Insider’s Guide to Personal History”. Each post will answer a different question that we’ve been asked over the years. Hope you enjoy it! If you have questions you’d like us to cover, contact us and we’d be happy to write about it.
People often ask me, “I’ve lived a normal life, and I’m just a regular person, so why should I record my story?”
I’ve been interviewing people for the past fifteen years. And I can honestly say I have never been bored by the stories and recollections I have been told.
How can that be? Well, here are six reasons why life stories are always worth preserving, even if you think your story isn’t all that exciting:
1. You are a living connection between your ancestors and your descendants.
Your recollections are valuable to your descendants. You are the one person who can flesh out the memories of the past and recall the stories of your ancestors. Your children, grandchildren and those yet to be born will value knowing the stories of success, failure and perseverance. We cannot know who we are unless we know where we have come from. You are a living warehouse that provides that essential link. Give your descendants this opportunity by telling your stories.
2. The world is changing every day.
Preserve your memories of days gone by – tell your ancestors what things were like “back in the day”. Tell them about the days before computers and cell phones (your young grandkids may be shocked to hear that you didn’t send your friends text messages). Tell them about your childhood days during the war. Tell them about family life before television. You actually lived through those days; most of your family didn’t.
3. Values, beliefs and life lessons.
Give your descendants a sense of what has made you tick. Why did you make the decisions you did? What beliefs grounded you when life got hard? What were the lessons that life taught you along the way? Tell your children, grandchildren and great grandchildren what kept you going and guided your actions. Teach your family from the wisdom you have acquired over the years. The sharing of this kind of knowledge is truly priceless for loved ones who haven’t had the experiences you have.
4. “When writing the story of your life, don’t let anyone else hold the pen.”
This quotation speaks to telling your life story in the way you want it to be told. Make this opportunity happen – tell your story in the way only you can tell it. Nobody knows you as well as you know yourself. Speak your own truth—because nobody else will.
5. It’s not too late.
Many people I meet tell me how they’ve thought about interviewing their mother, father or great uncle and recording family stories. They will say ‘What a great idea!’ However, a lack of time or skill often gets in the way of actually preserving those precious stories. And then the door of opportunity is closed permanently – a mother or father passes away. At that point, you realize how cherished these stories are, and there’s nothing you can do about it. If I had a dime for every time someone said “If only I had met you a few months ago, before my father passed away”, I’d be a happy camper. But it’s not happy to hear these laments. So start today—it’s not too late, but one day will be.
6. The nuts and bolts of personal history preservation
It’s not as difficult as you might think. Just start writing (or recording), and you’ll see that it’s actually a fun, educational, and often therapeutic process. If you get stumped, there are companies that can help you – whether you desire a video biography, audio records, or a written memoir.
Mark Twain once wrote, “There was never yet an uninteresting life. Such a thing is an impossibility. Inside the dullest exterior there is a drama, a comedy and a tragedy.”
After reading this quote you can see that I’m in really good company. Be assured that in the years to come your family will be appreciative that you spent the time to recall and preserve your memories. You’ll be amazed to learn just how special your life has been.
Will you begin to tell your story today?