One part of doing family history work is recording our personal history as well. I am doing pretty awful with that: the only time in my life when I consistently kept a journal was on my mission (alas, not in the beautiful Missionary Journals I had–more on why I chose simple college ruled composition books for that will come later.) I wrote a journal on and off over the years, more in high school, less since then. I’ve blogged quite a bit, both in Hungarian and English, and I have the exports of past blogs saved in a number of places.
A few weeks ago, however, I read a very thought-provoking article. I can’t remember where it was, so I can only summarize it. Basically, with our move to digital technology, and storing our photos, documents, our lives really in the cloud and on rapidly replaced tape and disk technology, what will people actually know about our time looking back? With the technology I used to record a conversation with my grandma now obsolete, I have to rely on ever newer digital versions of that recording. Just as I have no cassette player any more, in a few decades people won’t have CD players, and who knows how long mp3s will be accessible. With very little written records of the life of the people on the 21st century, an archeologist from the future will have to rely on artifacts that survive from our time. I imagine that will involve a lot of plastic, because that will never break down.
What would be the things that would survive to tell your story?
It would be a couple of crochet hooks, with plastic handles for me for sure. My Pandora bracelet maybe. A 100% polyester shirt. My rubber boots. And hopefully some of my journals, because ever since I read this article, I have made a very conscious effort to write regularly in a physical journal, too. I try to do it between writing my daily blog post and some scripture study.
Sometimes it’s hard to decide what to write about, what is worth recording, and what is better forgotten. My approach right now is that I write about whatever I feel was important that day. It might be as unimportant as, “We had 5 calls waiting on the whatever language line, but we recovered it by the evening,” or “I can’t believe the lox bagel is actually salmon in a ciabatta that’s full of olives, yuck!”, or they might be about spiritual experiences, important milestones, or activities. Trust me, my disappointment in my favorite sandwich was important enough to record! So were the series of events that filled up a nice notebook that all happened in the span of eight days in the summer.
Pinterest is full of wonderful journaling ideas, and very structured bullet journals and templates for them that I always look at in awe. I have no artistic talent, my drawing ability is limited to stick figures standing in one spot, and my handwriting is quite messy. A few weeks ago I posted this on Facebook:
Many of you know that I love nice stationary and I love writing. Yet I have a very hard time keeping a journal. The nice journals on my shelf are truly beautiful, fun, and made of quality materials. I love them, I loved buying them, but they are intimidating. Sloppy handwriting, spelling corrections–my spelling in Hungarian is even worse than my English–would ruin the beauty of the paper, and my mundane life and thoughts don’t deserve it. So my collection of journals and nice notebooks sit on the shelf, empty, but all of them filled with unwritten memories, the words only formed in my mind.
Those perfect Pinterest journals, with separate sections for scripture study, meal planning, reading journal, savings diet tracking and so on set an impossible standard to me. Since then I let go of them. My writing is messy, not very eloquent, randomly switching between languages, but it tells my story. Who knows, maybe one day someone will want to read them and know who I was and what went on inside and outside my head in 2017 in Budapest, Hungary.