What aspects of what I’m doing today will be meaningful ten years from now?
Or rather, which components of what aspects of the many things making up our lives at any point are worth noting in some external fashion, and which can be left undocumented?
I’ve been thinking about this a lot, of late, as I’m writing a book that encompasses fairly broad swathes of life, reaching all the way back to 2015. And some periods are fairly well chronicled through journal entries, essays, and photographs, while others—moments I set aside just for me, or which I didn’t think would be especially interesting or meaningful in the long-term—are far less so.
Through the lens of retrospect, many of the moments I expected to be low-key and transitional rather than meaningful or revolutionary ended up being vital to where and who I am, today; in some cases on their own merit and in others because of what they enabled or catalyzed.
Periods in which I wasn’t doing anything especially story-worthy, in the sense of having grand tales to tell, fed into massive changes and moments of foundational importance. In some cases, these moments themselves also hosted stunning realizations, key interactions, or learnings that became crucial, either in the moment or a little while later—the seed of something spectacular planted in the most humble and humdrum of circumstances.
This has led to a reconsideration of how I document my life, today, both in terms of what’s meant for public consumption—the way we all share our lives to varying degrees with others, be they loved ones or strangers—and what’s meant exclusively for a future version of myself.
How best to document a period of my life in which I’ve felt more like a chrysalis than a butterfly?
What will prove to be meaningful and archival about this moment in human history, but also this moment in my personal, internal, daily experience?
Which methods of documentation will help that future version of me unearth the archaeological remnants of what’s happening today in a manner that encapsulates the full, factual-plus-emotional resonance of my late-2021 existence?
How best to draw a multimedia map that in aggregate—when recompiled—will lead me back from where I’ll be then to where I am now?
Also worth considering is how documentarian efforts might conflict with my desire to live in the moment, rather than perceiving my today as just a future yesterday.
Every second I spend journaling or photographing or essay-writing or social media-ing is a moment in which I’m not doing other things, today; things that might be worthy of such documentation.
What’s the proper ratio of being here and now, versus attempting to capture and categorize the same chronological span for future consumption?
I don’t really have any answers here—this is a jumble of questions I revisit every time I spelunk through my past for memories from which I might learn and narrative-worthy moments that might help me convey something valuable to the people on the other end of my work.
It is an interesting topic, though, as it intersects with many other conversations about social presence, personal experience, when and how and whether to capture moments, the utility of documentation, and what details and experiences we’re biased toward when we re-surface memories for personal enjoyment and betterment, or for wider distribution.