Perhaps a year ago I had a dream in which I was telling some friends that I was the “family archivist.” And when I awoke I thought, “that’s ridiculous, I’m not the family archivist!” But you know how I am with dreams… I listen.
My mother had always wanted me to work on our family tree; so many bits were missing. And I was just too busy and not all that into doing the research. But then came the dream.
So the next thing I know I find myself telling my mother that yes, I will try and find the Ojibwe ancestors in our family tree, and yes, I will figure out what part of England some of the others came from, and yes, I’ll try and find my German grandfather’s heritage, since his dad died while he was quite young and he never spoke of him…
And I collected a bunch of family photos, many of them pretty ancient… along the way I learned how to date old photos by clothing and style of the photograph. I played with facial recognition software that helped to identify familial relationships. I learned how to identify and put some names to the faces. I gathered stories from elderly family members, joined Ancestry and built the tree, found a whole legion of distant family members from England, Ireland, Canada, and the US. Then took a class in genealogy to get a certification in genealogy.
Yes, I jumped in with both feet and the current has continued to carry me far.
Why am I telling you this? Because sometimes it’s the littlest thing, just a dream snippet or a passing inspiration that can lead to a whole new dimension for you. Sometimes I hear people say, “I’m a writer”, or “I’m a guitarist” — whatever — but I don’t feel like that. I sing and write and compose, but I don’t want to limit myself to one role. I sing. I love to sing. But I’m more than just a “singer”.
Do you tend to identify yourself with what you do?
I feel like, in this life, we have so many opportunities to expand our reality. Please don’t let yourself be limited by a role you play. You’ll play lots of roles, and wear lots of hats. Let each new game you play, add to the expansion of who you are.
A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.
-Robert A. Heinlein
(Well, being a vegan, I’m probably not interested in learning to butcher a hog, but the rest of it… I just love this quote.)
Heinlein is so right! Specialization is for insects.