"It is funny, but it strikes me that a person without anecdotes that they nurse while they live, and that survive them, are more likely to be utterly lost not only to history but the family following them. Of course this is the fate of most souls, reducing entire lives, no matter how vivid and wonderful, to those sad black names on withering family trees, with half a date dangling after and a question mark."
-from The Secret Scripture, Sebastian Barry
Five years ago, at my grandfather's memorial, I was treated to a family photo slideshow edited by my redneck twentieth cousin. Most of the pictures of the long-dead I recognised, oddly-dressed people whose images sat on random bookshelves and mantelpieces in my childhood house. Maybe it was because it was my first major loss as an adult, but I found myself with the sudden desire to know more about them - their names, their professions, their history within their families, anything that created a link between who they were, and who I am. It makes you wonder what traits, physical or otherwise, are shared with the anonymous (in a personal sense) faces which litter our histories.
I have family members heavily involved with genealogy, and though I appreciate how much enlightenment is provided by this, it's mostly dry, factual documents which are unearthed. There is no essence of the individual, though I suppose this media-saturated age will solve this problem for future generations seeking the origins of their past. Blogging may be the domain of the closeted self-absorbed, but I've often thought of this as my document of the side of my life which can't be accessed by marriage certificates and passport stamps.
Initially it may seem a morbid subject, pondering your own place in the grand scheme of things. I think too many people get caught up in the notion of major accomplishments, and not so much on the minutiae that actually makes a person interesting. For me, I'd much rather find out my great-great grandmother collected preserved pig fetuses than discover another great-great-something-or-other graduated from Yale and was an early mayor of Boston.
I'm guilty of questioning my place all the time, mainly through blog reading. Certain people are scarcely older than me and publishing novels, or if they aren't yet, soon will be. Some have series of degrees and illustrious academic careers. There is me, a postgrad drop-out living in a diddy flat with a job I fell into, in a largely unimpressive field. However, I recently read an article about a hoarder in the North of England who recently passed away. No one knew much about him, and he didn't leave any family behind when he died. With one swift swipe by Death, a person was erased. Yes, there is this article, but it doesn't answer any questions as to who he was. The writer went so far as to say that the hoarder's life was "unremarkable", a word which leaped from the page when I read it. What makes a life remarkable, and who are we to judge what is classified as remarkable or otherwise?
No doubt by this writer's definition, I lead an unremarkable life. The rest of my time will probably be spent raising my daughter, working like the stiff I am, and enjoying life through what makes me happy. I suppose by the standard interpretation, my life is unremarkable in its ordinariness. Millions of people have the same life structure as me, so apparently you have to stand out in order for your life so as to avoid the dreaded designation of your life as unremarkable.
Delusional as it may be, I hope P, the most immediate source of who may have interest in my life, takes much more joy in what makes me an individual than what would make me "remarkable". She will know that I moved over to the UK at 22, knowing no one except her father and most of my possessions squeezed tightly into a couple of bulky suitcases. She will know that I have an inappropriate and all-consuming love of hip-hop music despite my abiding whiteness (so very, very white) and nerdiness. She will know that I collect old books, decaying letters from previous centuries, and antique art prints of Arthur Rackham illustrations. She will know that I think The Big Lebowski is the funniest movie ever, a fact of which she will be painfully aware as I will be quoting it until they lower me into my grave.
I might be in complete denial, making up for a life not flashy and important enough. Just don't call me unremarkable.