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Tag: legacy

My Life in 30 Seconds

A friend drew this wonderful pencil sketch of my face as the basis for the birthday gift piñata she made for my party. I’ve found that my birthdays have always been a time of reflection. Last year was particularly intense…

With my father’s recent passing, I’ve been thinking a lot about his legacy, which has led me to think a bit more about my own.

And I’ve been reflecting back on my journey to date. I’m talking way back and trying to take in my whole life. What’s my story so far, and how has it evolved?

One way I’ve gone through this exercise is to review the photos I’ve created and collected over the years. They document many of the moments that have helped to define me.

Create a Photo Montage of your Life
Five years ago, I created a little photo project, which I’ve decided to return to and update. It’s been really useful to jog my memories during this time.

The goal is to select just a very few pics that represent my life so far. And then create a photo montage in a short video. The result is inevitably influenced by the chosen group of pictures, which will vary each time I try this.

Still, these photos do represent one way to look at your life. And I’ve enjoyed this exercise to help regain a broader view.

My Life in 10 Seconds?
How many photos do you select? Well, one option is to squeeze down the number to how many can fit into a defined amount of time. Sure, if you don’t want to restrict yourself, the video might last for hours. But what if you just limit yourself to just a fraction of that?

When I first tried this five years back, I held my video to just 10 seconds, and
I explored a few different photo montages at that length.

Okay… That ended up being a little too fast, as my pictures needed to fly by so quickly you could barely register each image. Some of my viewers complained.

So this time, I’m giving myself the luxury of a whopping 30 seconds.

Barrett’s Birthday Photo Montage
Each birthday is a marker in time and one simple way to collect a group of photos to tell a story. So here are my birthdays…

Though birthday pics can look visually similar across the years (mine certainly do), when strung together, the collection acts as a sort of time machine.

For many of these photos, I tried to represent my age by holding up certain fingers. (I eventually gave that up when I ran out digits!)

Barrett’s Life Photo Montage
Without the guard rails of a specific life event to work with, which photos should you choose to represent your life? Yes, that’s a much harder exercise and one that will take more time to figure out.

I created this draft, but it’s hardly ‘finished.’

This montage offers more visual interest as it shows me out-and-about in the world (as opposed to stuck in front of a birthday cake). But it’s still missing a key ingredient in any life.

You’re Not Alone
Of course, it’s all the people you know. Your family and friends are such as important part of your journey. You need to include them in any photo montage that truly reflects your life.

So, happily, I’ve still got a lot of work to do on that front. Until then, my little photo montage is hardly complete.

What Comes Next?
No, 30 seconds is not a lot of time. And hopefully, it’s not enough for anyone to really work with.

If anything, it’s just a taste or an echo of something much larger… and longer.

But I’ve still found it to be a useful exercise to try to hone in on just a few highlights.

And perhaps, it might help focus me on what my next highlights could be.

Time machines can work in both directions.

Are You Also an Adult Child of Paper Hoarders?

Saving your life’s paper trail may feel useful, but it actually promotes a life-long descent into disorganization. Here’s how to avoid that fate.

As I work to close down my father’s apartment now that he’s gone, I’ve had to go through literally decades of paperwork before disposing most of it. I’ve realized how critical it is to review everything, because every so often, I’ve found priceless paper artifacts hidden away in the mess. (My most recent find was a small portrait photo of my grandmother Rae from 1922 when she was young.)

Paper Trails Everywhere
Both my father and mother seemingly saved most every piece of paper that came into their apartment other than marketing mail and catalogues, though I uncovered some of those too. It was all loosely organized into many folders and stored away in different parts of their apartment. I think that simply reflected multiple decades of organization. Instead of consolidating and throwing away across time, a new file cabinet for storage was eventually curated until it became too large to handle. Rinse and repeat for the next decade.

Why all of this excess? I’m not quite sure, but I think it has something to do with having proof of transaction.

And I am an adult child of this paper-hoarding mentality. (Believe me, I’ve had my own struggles with this.) Not that my parents taught me specifically to save everything, but I know I’ve clearly picked up some of this irrational organization (though I must admit that laziness and other priorities are also part of the equation).

To be fair, though I save paperwork longer than I should, I do have a process to throw away the old, clearing up space for more incoming paper.

The Online Solution
Still, I have an unstoppable cycle of incoming paper. Who needs the mess in a digital world where most everything can be done online, such as online bill pay?

That solution is real progress for humanity right? And it works just fine.

Until it doesn’t.

Incorrect Bill-Reminder Email
I received an email this week from my wireless provider that informed me that I hadn’t paid my bill yet. What?!

This was a bill that I had set up for auto pay. (Yes, how digital of me.)

I looked at the email and wondered what could be wrong. Did my credit card expire? So, I logged in to my account and looked for my balance that was due.

It was zero (phew), and my credit card was just fine. There was also a little note documenting the recent auto pay.

All was normal, except for that email I received. (I reviewed the email address again to confirm it wasn’t spam. It wasn’t.)

Just a little glitch in the Matrix?

So now I’m left with a little less confidence in the system.

Trust your Bank Teller’s Math?
I suppose this little aberration is a good reminder that even though you shouldn’t save a physical copy of every transaction, you can’t give up total control either. There’s a balance to maintain.

Yes, you should to be able to trust our digital ecosystem.

Trust but verify.

I remember years ago when my bank stopped requiring its customers to submit deposit slips with their own math. That change was difficult for me, because I would have to trust that someone else’s math was correct. (Not that I still couldn’t do the math ahead of time and then compare it with the bank teller’s.)

That mistrust is another example of my parents’ view seeping out.

I eventually made my peace with this change. Plus I know there are other checks and balances in the banking process.

The Power of Paper
Sure, today’s digital world eliminates the need for most paper. But clearly, it’s not seamless. No, it’s not.

Still, I feel guilty admitting that I still like to receive certain bills in paper form, simply because I can leave them on my desk as a clear reminder to pay them.

Of course, there are any number of digital reminders that I could set up. But nothing beats the impact of a physical bill staring at me when I sit down at my home-office desk first thing in the morning with my cup of Joe.

Organize your Legacy
Yes, I am an adult child of paper hoarders. And if you were to take a look at a couple of my bins in our basement, you might wonder how much progress I’ve made.

But this experience has really opened my eyes. Having gone through my parents’ belonging, it’s been shocking to bear witness to such a paper trail. Literally.

I know that’s not the kind of legacy I want to leave behind.

I talk a lot about the importance of telling your own story. I haven’t really reflected on that in relationship to the concept of legacy.

I hope I have many years ahead to curate and slim down all of my stuff that may travel forward beyond me. But I clearly see this really needs to be a life-long endeavor.

It’s a lesson… I suppose the last lesson… that my parents have taught me.

It’s time to get organized.

What Should You Do with your Parents’ Old Photo Albums?

Now that both of my parents are gone, I’m left with all of their photo albums. And I’m faced with the complicated question of what to do with all of the pictures, like this cool photo of my father from the 1950s. Here’s one perspective…

My mother documented my youth in three large photo albums that were eventually forgotten in a hallway closet after she passed away in 2006. But not entirely. I knew they were there. For different reasons, I’ve borrowed a few of the photos and digitized them, but the vast majority still lived in analog form in that closet.

Sure, I could have easily taken the albums and started a digital conversion project at any point in the past decade, but I always had my existing family photo management work to do, which I was seemingly always behind on. And so this archival project never began.

These albums stayed buried in that same apartment where I grew up and my father still lived.

And then he passed away.

Remembering the Good Times
So, I’ve finally taken possession of these albums. (They’re one of the first things I moved out of my dad’s place.)

And now I’ve begun the slow process of digital conversion for some of these photos. I’ve quickly realized I don’t need all of them. Just enough to tell the story… the story of my family’s lives during those decades.

What I’ve uncovered mostly aligns with my memories, but it’s amazing what you forget or what you were too young to ever remember. It’s good that the photos are there to tell the story.

It’s comforting. Really comforting.

Reviewing Someone Else’s Memories
But there are other photo albums too that lived in my father’s apartment. These were his albums. And they lived separately from the core group. I knew they also existed, and I had seen them across the years, but they were much less familiar to me.

Some contained pictures of my grandfather and grandmother. Then, there were photos from my father’s youth. Others displayed people I didn’t know. There was also a treasure trove of photos from my dad’s travels to distant lands. He was very much a world traveler.
Here are a couple of his pictures from his trip to Egypt.

Then, there are boxes and boxes of his slides from the 1970s. (Remember when that was in vogue?) I’m not exactly sure what those contain… not yet.

I will need to go through all of my father’s photography. He’d talked to me about some of it across the years, but now I guess it’s left to me to figure out how to integrate it into the larger family ‘story’ that will get carried forward.

I think about his legacy. I think about how it is now left to me to carry forward my father’s story. I realize I’m more than a family archivist. I’m suddenly a historian.

It’s a daunting process. And yes, I am overwhelmed. How could I not be?

Keeping the Project Manageable
The good news is I’m not starting entirely from scratch. My father was a great storyteller. And I’ve videotaped many of his stories. And I have digitized some of his photos across the years.

I have to remind myself that this should not be an exercise in quantity. I don’t have to digitize every photo! Instead it’s about finding just what you need to properly represent the story and put any remaining pieces of the puzzle together.

This should support my healing… not make things worse.

Finding a Way Forward
I know this is going to take time (months? years?). So, I’m trying to keep all of these albums and photos properly organized in boxes and bins in our home.

Organization is key.

Is it possible they’ll simply live in the back of another closet until the next generation finds them? Let’s hope not.

Their future state deserves to live in digital form and integrated into my larger family archive collection.

Wish me luck…

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