My interrogator was a well prepared, thoroughly professional interviewer, not long retired from a major news network. She has a company devoted to documenting the lives of ordinary people as a way of preserving family histories. What was recorded, what will be edited, is for my family, our daughter, granddaughters, great-grandsons and those who will come after: stories of work, play, love, sorrow, achievement, disappointment . . . in truth, the story of a life; in this instance, my life, and the life of those closest to me.
The interviewer was well prepared, as a true professional is. Much of my working life has been spent either interviewing others or facilitating media interviews with people I represented in the course of my own work. I know what a professional interviewer does and what good ones do. My interlocutor certainly met the criteria for “excellent.” There was a short pre-interview on our first meeting a week earlier, but there were questions asked during the recording session based on books I have written and answers I had given to previous questions.
During the interview itself there were questions that I could not answer with glib responses; questions I had to consider, to take the time to recall the why or what of something that had appeared in print, or that I might have referred to in an earlier answer. Questions about where I came from, who my influences were, what events in my lifetime (so far) had helped form me and guide me on my life’s journey.
Usually, it seems to me, this is the kind of inner trip one takes as life is slipping away. Not true. It is the kind of exploratory event one needs to make at several pauses along the way. By looking back, by culling your memory, you learn how far the journey has taken you, how distant or close you are to where you started, how far you have traveled. Life is a learning experience. Reviewing what one has learned often can point to the way ahead. Of greater significance, it helps you prepare for the journey yet to come.
When I was much younger, still in my teens, perhaps even before that, I often marked a milestone in my life with a self-assessment: how much I had learned, what insights I had gained, what new directions I could see and embrace. Discovering that I knew something one day that I had not known the day before has always given me a bit of a thrill. Years ago I realized that the ideal life for me was to learn something new (a word, a fact, a skill, an idea) that could be translated, repackaged perhaps, and delivered to others.
An eminent scientist I once read said, “Facts from which no conclusions can be drawn are hardly worth knowing.” A clever quote, but I disagree with the conclusion. Facts, about something or someone can help build a picture, complete a story, explain a history. One fact leads to another, together they form a story, and the story leads to truth.
In the camera’s eye I tried to tell the truth about me.
***********If you or your family are interested in creating such a memoir, I highly recommend the company, the interviewer and the experience. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org, and I will provide the information.