Written by: Joe Fiduccia
We all experience certain things in life that we hope to never forget. We tend to savor the proud moments while hopefully learning something from the negative ones.
But often times the amazing stories that make up our life aren’t accompanied by a photo or video, and instead remain locked away in the memory banks of our own mind.
The inherent problem here is that one day our memories will fade. And once the people who have the power to tell the story behind a picture are gone, history is quickly forgotten.
All that remains is the legacy we have built and the Footprint we leave behind.
While many of us may feel content with “archiving” our life stories through public forums and social media, the reality is simple. These platforms become a wasteland that won’t make any sense to the people who dig it up dozens of years from now.
So why is it that we don’t do more to preserve our story? Why aren’t we taking the time to document what we can now for the purposes of one day passing down those memories to our children and grandchildren?
America’s Footprints wanted to find an answer to this very question. So we conducted a survey of 250 parents between the ages of 35 and 60, asking them all one question: “name the biggest reason why you have not taken steps to preserve the special memories that make up your life story.”
Here are 5 of the answers we collected that caught our attention:
EXCUSE #1: “I haven’t done anything significant in my life that is worth writing about.”
And in response, we say: “yes you have. You probably just don’t realize it.”
For example, what hobbies or passions do you enjoy? And how has that changed over time?
Who were some of your best friends growing up? And how did your friendships change over time? What childhood memories from school have stayed with you to this very day? And why?
Have you ever served in the military or armed forces? If so, what was it like and how did it change your perspective on life?
How did your education prepare you for your career? And how did your career path change as time went on? If given the chance to do it all over again, would you change the career path you chose?
If you are a parent, what is it like? What are some of your favorite memories you have with your children? And what advice would you have to new parents?
The questions go on. But bottom line, regardless of fortune or social status, everyone has a story to tell…despite how ‘ordinary’ you feel your life is.
EXCUSE #2: “I don’t have the time.”
And in response, we say: “if something is important to you, you’ll find the time.”
Just like we make time for family or reserve some time to read our favorite book, we can find the time to preserve our own life story.
Even just once a week for 10 minutes at a time is enough to get started. You can select a single moment in your history (perhaps an experience from that very day) and write or record just five sentences about it.
Do this a few times each month, and you will be pleasantly surprised at how quickly these short blurbs can morph into a detailed life story – about you.
Believe me, I know. Because 10 minutes a week is all I can find the time to dedicate to my own Footprint. Two years later, it’s unbelievable how much it has grown and how much I’ve already forgotten.
EXCUSE #3: “No one will care.”
And in response, we say: “someone will.”
You might be of the mindset that no one cares about you or your story. Maybe family life sucks. Maybe you lost all of your close friends. Or maybe you just feel alone.
Despite what may be going on in your life currently with family or friends, here’s a promise that I won’t be able to prove. But at the same time you already know it true: there will be someone, someday, who is interested in learning more about your life story.
For example, your face will appear in a photograph that your great, great grandchildren will discover one day. They may not know you or recognize you, but as an ancestor of their family, they will long for more information about who you were and what you did in your time here.
Think of it like this – when we uncover an interesting fact about our own ancestors (e.g. through genealogy research or through an old photo album we find in the attic), we are naturally fascinated. And I can guarantee you have probably come across a photo from your family’s past where you said to yourself: “boy – I wish we knew what they were doing in this picture.”
Now put yourself in the shoes of your great, great grandchildren. To find something that you left behind just for them is like unearthing an old relic in a backyard garden. That fascination about its history and how it got there will leave them thirsting for more.
But what they find depends on what else you left for them in that treasure chest.
Virtually every member of your family (both now and in the future) will have a natural curiosity about their past roots. No one can predict whether or not they will actively research those roots. But just imagine the joy they will have when they uncover a memoir and get to know the story behind another random face in an old photograph.
EXCUSE #4: “I don’t like to write.”
And in response, we say: “then find another way to preserve your memories.”
Personally, I don’t enjoy writing either. I find it way too laborious and would much rather have a verbal conversation with someone.
But with the help of today’s technology and mobile devices, recording your story is easier than ever. In my case, for example, I have decided to preserve my story through a variety of channels in my Footprint. They include a combination of written stories, videos, and audio recordings…many of which I create while on the go (e.g. in the car).
But even if you don’t have a Footprint yet, take out your mobile device, turn on the video camera, aim it at yourself, and speak your mind. Those few minutes of conversation to people you may never see can introduce your descendants to a whole new world they will be dying to uncover.
So even if you don’t enjoy writing, that doesn’t mean you can’t take just 5 minutes to preserve a memory some other way.
We have these devices at our fingertips. So press record …and start talking.
EXCUSE #5: “I don’t care about family history.”
And in response, we say: “that may be. But you can’t speak for your children and grandchildren.”
The whole concept of family history may not be your cup of tea. You may have zero interest in your ancestors, and no care in the world about old family heirlooms, old photo albums, or even tracing your roots.
However, that does not mean your children will grow up feeling the same way.
They may end up having a completely different viewpoint about their family’s history. And by not documenting what you can while you can, you may inadvertently end up creating a generation knowledge gap that your children and your future descendants will be unable to fill.
Just as it is today, the small bits of information we find in the future through genealogy and ancestry research will only do so much. And defining a legacy for both your life and in your family’s history isn’t just about making the best of each day we’re given.
A legacy is about defining future history by preserving our story as we live it.
All so that our children, our great grandchildren, and everyone who joins the future generations of our family will have the details about their ancestors that we know they will eventually long for.
So I only have one question left: “what’s your excuse now?”