Growing up, history was always one of my favorite classes. I have always been fascinated by the past and those who came before us. It has always blown my mind that before me, there were generations of people who lived on the same planet as me, living just like I am (for the most part).
Even more so than the history I can read about in a textbook and learn about from a teacher, I’ve always been curious about my history. In the early days of civilization, only the important parts of a person’s existence was told through oral history. People learned in a very selfish way, they only learned about themselves.
I think this idea is awesome. Yes, all of the stuff the history books teach us is important (“Those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it”), but what about the history of who we are?
Think back to your childhood. I know for me, some of my favorite times I spent with my family was when I learned about where I came from. Who didn’t love sitting with their grandmas and grandpas, talking about what their parents were like as children? A memory I personally cherish was making a Family Tree with my mom and aunt after my grandfather’s funeral. While losing my grandpa was so hard, learning about where he came from was a nice distraction from missing him.
How come after a certain point, we stop talking about who we are? After a certain age, it’s all about “who you are becoming”- what you want to study in college, what kind of job you want, if you want kids or not, but why does all of that oral history stop? Why do we stop talking about our past and our family’s past? Our ancestry plays such an important part of who we are and who we will become, so why do we stop talking about it?
Sometimes the past is hard to talk about, but that is the worst reason to stop talking about it. This is an issue I will discuss at greater lengths during my podcast, but when the past is hard to talk about to another generation, that’s when you should talk about it. My cousin passed away when I was three years old, and growing up without hearing that part of who I am was hard. I am who I am today (a person who never crosses a street out of a crosswalk, a person who checks to see if it’s safe to cross three times) because of what happened to my cousin. However, I still know very little about my cousin, and that part of my history should never be lost.
Sometimes we just get too busy to talk about what has happened in the past. But we should never be too busy to talk about who we are and what we are made up of. Our past still has so much of an influence on the decisions you make now (for example, the child of an alcoholic is going to be more careful around alcohol then someone with out that disease in their family history.)
Our family history is who we are, and for a large part of our childhoods, the only history we learn. Why do we step back from that later in our lives. We shouldn’t let “book” history take over as the only history we learn. Our personal history has much more control over us than what information is available on the internet. We should all return to oral history, it is who came before us that has a direct influence on who we are now.