Lately, I’ve had Michael W. Smith’s sandpapery voice echoing in my mind… You know the song. Come on. Admit that you know it. I’m looking for a reason… Roaming through the night to find my place in this world…. my plaaaaaace in this world….. (For those of you who missed the early nineties, here’s the youtube link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LpXMnY_t03M)
All I can say is, Preach on, Brother Michael. Preach on. For some reason, lately I’ve found it hard to find solid footing… In so many areas of my life, I’ve felt out of place, different, the odd-man-out, whatever you want to call it. I’m sure I’m not the first person to ever feel this way, but I don’t like that feeling of disconnection. So I decided in order to get grounded, I’d try to find out more about my roots.
Before I relate that experience, I have a confession to make. Family history has not been my idea of a fun time. In fact, it has been my idea of a tedious time. I even took a class on it in college, hoping that it would ignite the spark in me that I feel is my duty to have. But alas. Even family-history-turned-pop-culture, like the show “Who Do You Think You Are?” hasn’t interested me that much.
My family, on the other hand, have been amazing with it. Before I was born, my parents published and sold a board game through Bookcraft publishers called Family Tree that encouraged people to do their own research. My mom complied and abridged journals and all sorts of records, including pictures and pedigree charts for both sides of our family for generations. My cousin, Mary Lee, started a blog dedicated to our family history and has so much information.
With this objective of finding “my place in this world”, I chose this week to dig into the resources I’m so spoiled to have at my fingertips. I had remembered years ago when Mary Lee had told me about how we have royalty in our lines and ancestors that were on the Mayflower. I think for several days afterward, that I tried to walk around regally. For some reason, knowing that I came from awesomeness made me feel a little awesome myself.
I didn’t have ambitious goals this week. I wasn’t trying to find some long-lost relative in an obscure and dusty pile of census records. Mostly, I was just trying to get to know my predecessors and figure out a little bit of what has gone into making me.
I read lots of stories, both on my maternal and paternal grandparents’ sides. I looked over pictures and saw kaleidoscopic pieces of me in generations of faces. The autobiographies were my favorites… It was nice to read something that revealed the personalities of my ancestors, including their insecurities and things that made them more human to me. There were a few skeletons in the closet, like every family has, and things that made me a little mad, though I tried not to judge. It was fun to read about ancestors that shared my interests and talents in life. I read about miraculous events and work ethics that inspired me. Mostly, I just felt a lot of respect and gratitude towards the people I read about.
A funny thing happened that I didn’t expect. I felt the desire to start writing my own personal history. I haven’t made a lot of progress yet, but I did start brainstorming childhood memories that I hadn’t thought about in years. Thinking about the investment my parents made in our family and all of those happy memories also brought a lot of gratitude into my heart.
I think I’m still “roaming through the night to find my place in this world”, on a practical level. But for some reason, knowing where I’ve come from helps me feel a little more confident in my steps. And it holds up the light of some pretty impressive examples to show me what I’m capable of.