Did you grow up in a household with home movies? I didn’t. I’ve always been a little envious of friends whose Dad or Mom was the family videographer, capturing birthdays and Christmas and family vacations. Photo albums and slides are wonderful, but to have video? That would be something.
I think of home movies as being the layman’s version of a documentary. And with this being called the golden age of documentaries, there are some amazingly well-told life stories out there. From Ruth Bader Ginsberg to Jane Fonda to Mister Rogers, the inspiration these giants provide is enormous: passion, struggles, triumph, wisdom.
What would a documentary of your life teach you about yourself?
September is the the anniversary of my moving to L.A., so I’ve been creating some documentaries in my mind’s eye fairly regularly over the past four weeks. In fact, I actually went so far as to “journal dive.” And no, I hadn’t had any wine.
Are you familiar with journal diving? Let me explain. I’ve kept a journal on and off ever since I was in college. I keep all of these journals in a box under my bed. I opened the box. Dove into the journals. And read some of them.
There were pages of angst:
”Unemployed… but very productive which surprises me since anxiety usually causes me to be depressed and lazy!”
A moment when I wondered if the writer of Bridget Jones’s Diary had plagiarized me:
“I’ve been inspired these last two days to really work out A LOT and STOP eating!”
And entries like this:
”Lord, I love the theatre. There truly is a magic I have felt about the theatre ever since …”
I know there are a myriad of platitudes about not looking back at the past (“The past cannot be changed. The future is in your power!”), but reading these old journals was a way to experience my own little documentary: reminding me of my struggles, the things I’ve learned along the way, the person I was, the person I am today.
The iconic writer Joan Didion has this to say on the subject in her essay, On Keeping a Notebook:
“I think we are well advised to keep on nodding terms with the people we used to be, whether we find them attractive company or not. Otherwise they turn up unannounced and surprise us, come hammering on the mind’s door at 4 a.m. of a bad night and demand to know who deserted them, who betrayed them, who is going to make amends.”
I think Ms. Didion is right.
It was a little painful looking back at those journals, but I am learning to be on “nodding terms” with that young girl who worried about the not-so-great relationship she was in at the time, who seemed to always be on some sort of quest to lose weight, who wondered if this acting thing would work out, who talked to God a lot.
So give a nod.
Remind yourself of where you’ve come from.
And look to the future with hope for all that your life has yet to accomplish.
Your documentary is important.