I touch my face way too often…
A few weeks ago I found an interesting interview article around a simple theme. Don't talk to your parents, interview them. It is well worth the read, and Joey Perr just sounds like a really interesting person with a fascinating family history.
I know that I've thought about this in the past, especially back when I was trudging through my divisional project work in college. I was a writing major and was working through the heaviness that came from having a grandfather that was fading away through Alzheimers. At the time, I was obsessed with memory, and how easily it is lost when the holders of those moments disappear. That generation, in particular, seemed to be so willing to speak about the Great War, but never wanted to recount that 20 difficult years that led up to it. The 50s and 60s (my parents generation) was a fun topic because my grandparents got to rage against the generation gap. But those early years were so hard to capture and are now lost. I don’t know how my grandparents navigate the great depression.
When my parents are gone, even more of this history disappears. And what about me?
I'm getting into my late 40s now and it has recently hit me like a ton of bricks. I guess this is the time that others buy the hot car, make stupid, risky decisions as a way to grab back at those younger, careless years.
I've just get depressed thinking about my legacy. I'm starting my slide into the last of my truly productive years. I should be resting as I get older, and instead, I'm obsessing about how I'm not achieving enough. Nothing to really get behind. Nothing to brag about.
At times I think it is imposter syndrome. I've had this since my post-college years when I quickly realized that they real world was not going to allow me to be an artist. I wanted to be able to smoke and drink too much, rambling about the modern state of literature and whatnot - but that wouldn't put food in my belly and pay off my significant school debt.
I wanted to be a journalist, but was terrified of my college's well respected professor of creative non-fiction. I was too fragile to take his very public beatings and I regret not stepping up to his gallows so that I could learn. After school, I thought that I could give it a whack - but instead found myself selling advertising for the magazine I would have liked to have written for. When I tried publishing (more traditional), I landed in the technology development side. And here I am, twenty five years later still wishing I had it in me to make that leap of faith.
Other areas are the same. Family man - I suck at owning things. I should not be allowed to own a home, cars, be responsible for other's physical and emotional well being.
I have no idea how to parent. None - full stop. The fact that they are both still alive and still speak to me is more a testament to their weakness than to my strengths. I guess they just don't know any better (yet).
I've attempted the entrepreneurial path as well. At at time when I was frustrated with all things - I found some partners who were in a similar place - and we thought we could change the world through technology. We still do. Just now, we've realized how hard it is to fully understand a challenge in the marketplace, build a product, manufacture need (because sometimes you have to convince people that they need what you have), and eventually get "it" to some level of commercialized success. So I sit up at night and wonder why some can make it work, can make it successful, yet we can only get it 75% of the way there. I am an imposter playing a game, duping the world. A modern day grifter hustling daily, hoping to not be caught with that card up my sleeve.
What do I do with all of this baggage?
I start a new project.
I want my children to have some history to hold on to. Something that can be theirs - and the way we've done this is to start the capture of it. I spend time with the boys recording their questions and my answers, sometimes asking them some tough ones myself. I've found that once we all get comfortable with the recorder (my phone at the moment) being out, we get accustomed to speaking openly. At first, I found the boys to be parsing their speak, thoughtful about what they were saying and how they were saying it. Over time, the silence now forces them into a comfort zone. They are growing used to the thought that their words are being captured. The language gets more relaxed - and the stories come out.
This makes me happy to think that we're creating these experiences together. I'm happy that they are starting to ask me things about what I was like growing up. It is also nice to reminisce about times when the world didn't seem so difficult. Very northern, very rural Vermont in the 70s seems like an extremely different planet now, especially to these children of tech.
I do not know what I'll do with it all in the end. I'd like to think that the narrative will start to rise to the top - and it might make for some nice audio pieces. It has given me a glimmer of hope - and an outlet and reason to bond with my boys.
Now, as we prepare our summer vacations - I'm starting to think about how I get my parents comfortable with the microphone so that I can finally learn from them and get their histories down, and the histories of my greater family so that it isn't forever lost to the years.