Why Are You a Personal Historian?

I came across this Annie Dillard quote the other day: “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” It got me thinking.

There are times when the humdrum of keeping a personal history business afloat and tending to clients’ concerns can leave me drained and questioning if this is how I want to spend my days. Why am I a personal historian?  I tell myself that I’m helping families record and preserve their stories as a legacy for future generations. And I’m documenting the oral history of a particular time and place.

These are OK answers but they don’t make my heart sing. They don’t make me rise above the day-to-day minutiae and say, “Yes! This is how I want to spend my days!”  So I dug a little deeper and I found where the gold lies.

I’m a personal historian because it aligns with four of my core values: independence, service, variety, and creativity. Let me explain. I enjoy the fact that I’m my own boss and can shape each day pretty much the way I want. I need to feel that what I do benefits others in a meaningful way. My work allows me to wear a variety of hats such as marketer, interviewer, writer, and designer.  As a bonus I get to meet an amazing cross-section of people. Lastly, I love to create things. At the end of the day I can point to something I’ve worked on and say, “This is what I made.”

When our work is aligned to our deepest values it has resonance and supports us. Sometimes I forget that in the day-to-day business of my work I need to remember where the gold lies.

Where does the gold lie for you? Why are you a personal historian?

Photo by Dan Curtis

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16 Responses to Why Are You a Personal Historian?

  1. Dan,

    I wholeheartedly concur. You described my reasons for being a personal historian to a tee. Could it be that we are all here for the same reasons? That we are all driven by the same needs and desires? Thanks for sharing, Dan.

  2. Dan, you hit the nail right on the head! I believe that most personal historians share the same or very similar values and we love the fact that our profession allows us to wear several hats while going about our daily work.
    The sheer variety of working as a home-based personal historian means that no two days are the same and I interact with amazing people almost every day. I love the work I do!

  3. Wonderful words, Dan. Really spoke to me.
    Lin Joyce

  4. I’m just starting-up my business, and you’re absolutely right. Its such a privilege and a joy to be invited inside the intimate thoughts and memories of the people we help. I find it inspirational that you’ve become so successful in your own business. I am learning so much from your blog posts… thank-you!!

    • @Georgina Szumlas. Thank you for your generous comments, Georgina. I’m pleased that my posts are of some value to you. It’s always satisfying to hear from readers who get something from my writing. All the very best with your new business adventure. If there are topics you’d like me to tackle, please let me know.

  5. Jeannie Queen

    Thank you, Dan. You reach the level of passion and truth here.

  6. Ach, Dan. Done it again. Right on the money. Where does that skill come from? That thing about putting into wise words the things we all think about in this biz? Wonderful …. keep writing. (And next, please say some wise words about how to keep a blog going, fresh, regular, on time …..It’s a skill I can’t seem to master yet ….!)

    • @Francie. As always, thanks for your encouraging words. Your suggestion about writing on how to keep a blog going is a good one. Maybe I’ll tackle this for my next post. Keep tuned!

  7. Thanks for the honest framing of our passionate profession. I often get lost in the shear size of the tapestry because it takes so long to weave it. Yet, the minutiae are the threads of joy that makes the work so rewarding throughout the process, and then through time.

  8. Hi Dan, Your article resonates with me. I’m trying to use Dragon Speaking software to translate a recent interview. This is new technology for me. It would be easy to get frustrated and lose track of “the gold”. Thanks. From a newly launched personal historian. What a great world!

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