For many, many years now what has emerged for me is a focus on family history: the work of hearing, researching, documenting, and experiencing the stories that make up my family background.
I was reflecting on why I’ve consistently prioritized family history, and I think it’s a combination of a few things:
1. My 80-year-old self. Once in a while, when I’m facing big decisions, I have a conversation with my 80-year-old self: an imaginary conversation, as I’m nowhere near an octogenarian yet. My 80-year-old self realizes that I’m getting only more forgetful with time: if I don’t document stories now, I won’t remember them when I’m old and grey.
2. Desire for connection and meaning. In exploring my own family history, I gain a deeper understanding of who I am - my ‘intergenerational self’. For example, in my research I've learned a lot more about my great-great-great uncle, who was a naturalist and amateur botanist: my connection with the land and with flora runs deep in my family and way of being.
3. Robert Gass’s principle: Years ago I took a fabulous leadership course with Robert Gass, and he offered the simple question: what is uniquely yours to offer? No one else could have written my family history book: they don’t have my perspective, life experience, or persistence (and let me tell you, that's a lot of the work).
When I get away by myself, I get a broader perspective on where I want to prioritize and focus my time and energy. For the past five years, I’ve prioritized family history books: this work matters to me.
Now I’m lucky enough to do the same work for other families. I think my 80-year-old self approves…!
The map here depicts the location of Jedediah Island - where my great-great-grandfather settled over 100 years ago (there's another story!).