As a personal historian, I frequently have conversations with people about sharing their life stories. They often give several reasons for not passing on those stories. Whether those are good reasons or just excuses, though, is worth considering.
“I’m too busy.”
Many people are juggling jobs, elder care, childcare and community and/or coaching responsibilities that would overwhelm the most organized. If that’s you, you already have your plate more than full. On the other hand, “a full plate” can be an excuse to avoid all sorts of important things in life until it’s too late. Listen to Harry Chapin’s song Cat’s in the Cradle and see if you’re still sure you’re too busy to offer your family precious stories they will cherish long after you’re gone.
1. “I don’t want to.”
Fair enough. Everyone’s allowed privacy if they wish. Of course, there’s often someone else who will tell their side of your story, which may be quite different from your own perception and memory. Getting your memories out there will set the record straight, at least from your point of view.
2. “Writing a personal history costs too much.”
Yes, the task can cost time. It can cost emotional effort. And it can even cost money. But in reality, money is the easiest challenge to overcome, since there are many ways to record your story. Partner with a friend; join a writing group, in person or on-line; write your story yourself—start with specific topics that are especially memorable; buy a small tape recorder and talk into it, or an iPad to record your story digitally; create a scrapbook; assemble a photo album and identify the people in the photos, the time frame, location, circumstance or story behind the photos. There are more options for getting your stories down than ever before, and many that cost very little or nothing, except for your time. http://www.personalhistorians.org/index.php , (Association of Personal Historians) www.appo.org (Association of Professional Photo Organizers)
http://www.legacystories.org/ (Legacy Stories) all have lots of ideas and resources available, some for a fee, but many for free.
3. “I never did anything important.”
Women often seem to think this about themselves. However, stories of daily life are often the missing links when historians try to piece together what life was like at different periods of history. Your observations may provide insight that others didn’t think was worthy of note.
Elizabeth Barber’s book, “Women’s Work,” a detailed historical look at the art of textile making, describes the importance of the previously untold story of textile innovations through time, and how so much important cultural information was overlooked for years because archeologists, mostly men, didn’t “see” what was right in front of them. http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/359139.Womens’_Work
4. “No one wants to read my stories.”
Well, you may think this is true, but it’s a theory that’s too often untested. What do you have to lose by trying? You may very well find that family members and friends are eager to hear your perceptions of events that you shared with them or perhaps have never told them at all.
5. “I can’t remember any stories.”
If you don’t think you have any memories worth sharing, contact me. Memory is something that, once stirred up, seems to bring more and more memories along with it. Many simple techniques can be used to bring up memories. I can offer memory prompts and lots more information to get you started.
But if you’re still really determined to keep your stories to yourself, I’ve just given you some really common reasons to continue exactly what you’re doing. But if the idea of stirring up memories and preparing them for your loved ones appeals to you, there are lots of people and resources out there to help you begin.
Marjorie Turner Hollman is a personal historian who loves the outdoors, and has completed two guides to Easy Walking trails in Massachusetts, “Easy Walks in Massachusetts 2nd edition,” and “More Easy Walks in Massachusetts.” A native Floridian, she came north for college and snow! New England Regional Chair for the Association of Personal Historians, she is a Certified Legacy Planner with LegacyStories.org, and is the producer of numerous veterans interviews for the Bellingham/Mendon Veteran’s History Project. http://www.marjorieturner.com