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What's your favorite? Sunday August 4, 2013

As a personal historian, I am passionately interested in people's life stories. I've discovered that we all have stories, but we are too busy with daily demands to explore within ourselves (or others close to us) even the simplest subjects.

For most of us, the chances are slim that anyone has ever asked you: "What is your favorite color?"

A person's life story is more than genealogy: "I went to this college, I had that job...," it reveals a person's 'insides'...what they think, feel and passions that move them. The inner life particulars matter more than the 'resume' material of our lives.

However, it isn't necessary to meet a personal historian to begin examining your inner life. I encourage you to purchase a journal that has built in life journey questions or an 'empty journal'.

If you don't feel 'skilled enough' to explore these issues‚ if your journal becomes a dust magnet rather than the invaluable tool it has the potential of becoming, ask a friend to interview you. The experience will touch you deeply. In addition to the journaling process creating a feeling of fulfillment, it can be fun...akin to supping tea with a friend.

By recording your life experiences, your children, grandchildren and even great-grandchildren will be able to see the past through your eyes. The lessons you express will become their model for living‚ for seizing opportunities and overcoming hardships.

I wholeheartedly encourage you to begin journaling. Just as your own life story journal will give you the opportunity to be 'heard', it will also afford you the potential of settling possible struggles remaining in your life.

Finally, you'll have the honor of leaving behind a legacy to your loved ones...a gift treasured more deeply than material goods.

Thoughts on the above? Please feel free to post a comment on our Blogspot:

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DrPaprika Sun, Aug 4th 2013 @ 7:37am

As a social and cultural historian, I'm not sure I like all the terminology here; personal historian? journalLING? However, I like the sentiments. I'm trying to write a family history at the moment, and it's amazing what our contemporary family will find to quarrel about, e.g. judging past housing conditions by present-day standards! My Great Aunt died in 2002, leaving me her memoirs on tape, as well as in a journal. I had to point out to relatives that family history is more than genealogy. Journals and oral history are often far more valuable in learning about the times in which people lived. In fact, without the oral tradition, we can often make mistakes about the complexity of names and relationships which existed in the past, often very different to those which exist today. The basic task of a historian, as a human interpreter, is to understand this relationship between change and continuity in communities as well as in individuals and families. The whole of human life is here! Also, it is not our role as historians to change or judge people's own stories, simply to chronicle and perhaps to interpret them for others. Within the same family, there can be many different versions of the same events. We all have different starting points, different questions to ask of the past, depending on our present identities. That's what makes doing family history so interesting, but its also challenging, because we often need to confront our own prejudices about people in our past, and learn the historian's craft of interpreting the traces of evidence they have left behind, if we are to go beyond the basic chronicle of births, deaths, marriages and occupations. Much, though not all of these skills, can be applied to our own lives. Unlike historians, we lack the benefit of hindsight. We don't know how our own story ends, and we lack the perspective of 'a safe distance' on the people and events that are no longer part of our story. That's the difference between our personal stories and people's narratives.

DrPaprika Sun, Aug 4th 2013 @ 7:43am

In the penultimate sentence I should have written, 'part of our present'.

Anonymous Sun, Aug 4th 2013 @ 8:38am

I have never heard of a personal historian. Is it an academic subject? Interesting.

Anonymous Sun, Aug 4th 2013 @ 9:27am

This is a blog which set me thinking.
The idea of recording ones inner feelings, passions and life experiences which might become my chidrens' and grandchildrens' model for living fills me with a sense of unease. I would hate my children and grandchildren to know all about me, what I have done in my life other than what they already know.
If I were an ordinary Mr or Mrs Jo Bloggs with no secrets, then fine but quite frankly if I wanted to write about things I have done in my life, which I may perhaps regret and certainly don't wish close family members know about, I would write anonymously. I for one couldn't possibly begin to talk about my life openly but leave out certain chunks I didn't want anyone to know about. It would be an incomplete picture and what use is that?
Children keep secret diaries and the last people they want to read them are their parents! Why can't it be the same for us parents? We can have secrets too. And as for a friend or worse, a personal historian, what ever that might be, delving into my inner secrets, no thank you. Please!
But a thought provoking blog and no doubt many moodscopers will have different reactions.

Anonymous Sun, Aug 4th 2013 @ 9:53am

A social and cultural historian I have heard of and read their articles and books. An established academic subject.

Anonymous Sun, Aug 4th 2013 @ 9:56am

Anonymous Sun, Aug 4th 2013 @ 9:59am

moodyblue Sun, Aug 4th 2013 @ 10:33am

Why have I left it so long. If I had done it I would have seen the long haul of cause and effect and been able to do some
corrections. As it is I will have to use memory and hindsight, but I am determined to create a timeline that will give me the clues to living the rest of my life "On track" Thanks Moodyblue

colette Sun, Aug 4th 2013 @ 12:53pm

There are also several hard cover self-interview books at most book stores. They help to go beyond usual journal subjects (mine tend to be rants about a day or bits too peraonal to share). The interview books can help you move outside the inside-which can be equally as enlightening:)

Anonymous Sun, Aug 4th 2013 @ 1:24pm

The word "Favourite" is spelt without the "U" in the title of this blog. Must be an American contributor? So Personal Historians is an American concept. I wonder if the hard cover self interview books Colette mentions are available in the UK?

Anonymous Sun, Aug 4th 2013 @ 10:23pm

Yeah, ... oops ..., I mean Yes. "Color", "journaling", "honor" and suchlike can be endearing when uttered by a folksy old lady. But they jar a little in a moodscope context.

More to the point, however academic or folksy the 'personal historian' may be, we are not here to inform our putative great-grand-children, nor to add colour to someone's view of the history of the early 21st century, we are here primarily to seek help and to improve/heal ourselves.

It may well be that having a simulated interview, or recording out inner reactions, is valuable in mood-improvement. But that's rather what Moodscope is trying to do anyway (in a usefully standardised way), And maybe a more open-ended record, such as is being urged, would also be useful.

It's surprising that there isn't already a smartphone app to do just that. Could be worth a Euro of anyone's money.

Anonymous Sun, Aug 4th 2013 @ 11:04pm

It occurs to me that "Lynn" may be a real person, and even a Moodscope user, in which case she may be hurt by the criticisms of her contents and her writing style.

If, say, she was American, where there may well be reputable people sincerely describing themselves as 'personal historians', our bleatings and cries of affront would probably seem out of touch and a result of cultural inbreeding.

Her strongly urging us to buy some product might actually be altruistic advice.

But in our little old cultural ghetto, her advice might be self-defeating.

Certainly I would think myself a fool if ever I asked someone what their favourite colour might be, and I would be insulted if someone asked me mine - "am I really that trivial?" is what I'd be thinking unless, say, it was an experiment about colour-blindness.

And if someone convinced me that they were really, really interested in an answer, which gave insight into my character and life, I wouldn't be able to answer them.

I might say 'orange is my favourite colour for sunsets, but I like purple and green as well'. Or 'white is what I like in flowers, but it has to be a warm white'. Or 'very light brown skin is sexiest'. What on earth would the use of any of those answers be, unless perhaps to go on to ask whether I preferred sunsets or flowers or sex.

Thus, as a way in to one view of myself, it might be a start, as would almost any personal question. But the answer would be different next time, and every time thereafter.

I am not motivated to provide a 'personal historian' with my story, if I have one, in order to give them some passionate interest. I'd rather have a passionate interest of my own, which I can keep as secret as I like and which I can use to strengthen the story about myself which entertains me and guides my future actions.

Caroline Ashcroft Sun, Aug 4th 2013 @ 11:25pm

Hi there, Lynn is a real person, a Moodscoper, lives in the US and is a personal historian and is very passionate about her work. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion which is why we have the blog, and I'm sure she wouldn't be offended. It's an interesting blog and probably something that many people haven't thought about, so as long as it has got people thinking, it's a positive thing I think.

Elizabeth Tue, Aug 6th 2013 @ 4:14pm

Hello. I like this blog. Actually I like most of the blogs, though some are more useful or interesting then others, and I love the variety which comes since more people are writing.

I probably won't write a public "journal" for my family to read - though it might be interesting reading, if my grandmother wrote one - but having a diary helps me greatly to expres my feelings and improve my mood. From my experience I recomend a (secret) diary to everyone.

I am really surprised that people here would find uncommon or offending being asked about their favourite colour. I live in central Europe and I find it a very common question especially among kids or as part of a game. Mine is red, though probably I wouldn't paint the walls of my room in red ... ;)

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