Written by: Joe Fiduccia
There are literally dozens of options that are available at your fingertips for researching your family’s history. Log in to your favorite genealogy or ancestry website, and you’ll find everything from census records, to marriage and death records, and even to passenger lists for the ships that brought immigrants to America.
Looking back through the pages of time is an almost endless task that has become quite a passionate hobby for millions of people.
Inevitably the time will come when we become part of that history. When our story ends, our legacy begins. But so many of us are consumed with researching our past, we pay virtually no attention to what we are leaving behind for our future.
For example, some people realize too late in life that photos may tell a story, but it’s one that few will ever know. It is almost like looking at an artifact or document you found in your attic from 80 years ago, and telling yourself: “wow – I would have loved to know the story behind this.”
When your future descendants find your artifacts, will they know the story that goes along with them?
Sure some of us may have a room filled with photo albums, or an online site dedicated to storing and sharing videos. But will your future descendants truly know the history behind it all? Better yet, will they even have access to the history you have collected in this journey you call “life?”
The stories of our life can not be found in printed records, nor will they likely become part of any genealogy and family history websites. They exist only within us.
And that is one of the core reasons why people decide to create a Footprint or write a memoir. Because they don’t want their story…their legacy…to fade away.
But for those who take that leap and decide to begin preserving their journey, the amount of stories from our past can immediately begin to overwhelm us.
When I started my Footprint for example, I went into it with no “professional” experience. I was not a writer, and I was not well versed in history. I was not looking to publish a book, and simply wanted to preserve the milestones in my journey to pass down to my son.
But figuring out where to start and what to document was (and in a way continues to be) the hardest part.
Think about it. How does one “summarize” their life story into a single Footprint? How can you possibly pinpoint the specific stories you want to share from all the years you have been alive?
And when you finally get some ideas, what do you write? How long should it be? What details should you include, or leave out? Complicating things even further, as we begin to write our stories, we find ourselves getting caught up in the details like grammar and spelling.
It gives me a headache just thinking about it!
And that’s when I realized something. Life may be complicated. But that doesn’t mean my story has to be.
And that is why I suggest you always start your Footprint with one thing in mind:
KEEP IT SHORT AND SWEET.
For example, you can’t (typically) catch two fish with one hook. So if you are swimming through a million stories in your mind while figuring out which ones to preserve, try focusing on just one single event or experience.
It could be a childhood memory, or a story about a relationship you were in. It might be a story about someone who was an important part of your life, a story about getting your first car, or maybe just a story about how you landed your first job.
Bring yourself back to that moment in time. Where were you? How were you feeling? And what was so significant about this moment that you selected it?
Pick this one milestone, put your hands on the keyboard, and start typing…focusing on just this one single memory from your journey, and preserving the bits and pieces that help put it together.
As you begin writing, keep in mind – you are not publishing a novel. You don’t have to write much. Even just one simple paragraph will do.
And don’t worry about the things like spelling or punctuation. Because quite honestly, your future descendants probably won’t care.
Instead they will be caught up in the story of your life, skipping the mistakes in grammar while eagerly anticipating the next page in your Footprint.
Bottom line, don’t let the complexity of your life story weigh you down. Preservation should be simple. Because all of us have a journey that we could write about for centuries.
Just pinpoint one specific moment you wish to preserve, and keep the storyline basic. Once you begin writing, you’ll find it hard to stop.
Remember we are not doing this with the intent on writing a best-selling novel. We are doing this to provide just a few pieces of the puzzle that will help tell our story to our children and grandchildren.
And one more thing: whatever you do, don’t be the one who gives in to the complexity and says: “I’ll get to it when I feel like it” or “I’ll do it if I have the time.” Because if you wait too long to start preserving your story, time may run out before you can finish it.
So when will you begin preserving your Footprint?