A couple days ago, I had one of those Internet spirals: I went looking for one thing, which led me to another and on to another and—well, you know that goes: Too much time sucked into the Intertubes.
In this case, I was looking at the history of the town where I was born. That got me thinking about the larger issue of personal history and what we leave behind.
I was looking at big, beautiful Victorian houses that are now are gone, that led me to a couple other places until I ended up searching newspaper archives held by the local museum. I found that there were stories about my parents, one where my sister was mentioned and one where I was. These weren’t the stories themselves, just the catalogue numbers one could use to possibly order the photos for re-use in some way. It was all a bit vague.
All of that got me to thinking about what traces we leave behind. I don’t mean the specific things we leave behind—friends, family, maybe a tangible thing like a building, a business, whatever.
Instead, I’m talking about our broader stories. When I looked at those old houses, I was struck about how little they knew about them, and what wasn’t there: Who lived there? What were their stories?
It’s that way for most of us: Unless we’re famous or notorious, and sometimes even if we are, the harsh reality is that most people will never know anything about us. Here’s an example. During my years as a political activist, I did all sorts of things, engaged with all sorts of elected officials, but most of that work is stuff “the world will little note, nor long remember”. It doesn’t bother me that the things I did are unlikely to be even a footnote because I did it for the results, not the recognition. Besides, most of us are in basically the same situation with our life stories.
However, we bloggers have a great opportunity to document history and stories that would never be published normally, whether our own or those of others, and then to put them in a place where other people can find them. I think there are people who might like to know about some of those smaller stories, so I like seeing bloggers talk about such things.
I’ve already done some of that on this blog, and I’m going to continue doing it. That may even include documenting some of my activist past, something I’ve never really done before. If nothing else, I suppose it’ll give me some stuff to post about and, for a blogger, that’s reason enough, isn’t it?