Due to the fact that nothing was on TV and I was not–for once–working or playing around on the computer, I decided to watch Who Do You Think You Are? It is a show which follows celebrities as they trace their family heritage and learn unknown stories of their family’s past. The show is essentially a giant advertisement for ancestry.com, but manages to be rather compelling in spite of this.
I do not usually watch the show, though I have seen several episodes. It is a good go-to show for when I can’t find my usual shows and still want to veg in front of the television. Tonight’s episode was centered on the family history of Gwyneth Paltrow. She is probably one of my least favorite actresses, but her episode drew me in and it got me thinking.
At one point, she is discussing a relative several generations back who immigrated to the US from Barbados at the age of 18. She came on a cargo ship with her sister, and they were the only two passengers on board–the rest of the people on board being the standard shipping crew. I forget the exact wording, but Gwyneth spoke about the desire for a new life, the openness to adventure, and the bravery it takes to leave your country for a new one.
It made me think about how so many of us have that long gone relative who is practically (or actually) a myth, whom we romanticize because of how we perceive the story and the various filters through which we process it. I mean this beyond the standard great-great grandma who was “a Cherokee princess” story that everyone seems to have–and if you have the time, check this out. What I am talking about are real stories, tales that come with details based in fact and embellishments based in the imaginations of the generations that followed. My family doesn’t have many of these, the only one I recall being about a long dead great-great(-great?) uncle who was a millionaire but gambled away his fortune.
However, all this made me think about what my story would be. With the advent of technology, it will not be so difficult for future generations to locate facts about me–perhaps they would even find this blog. But with or without that, would I be a brief footnote in the family lineage, or would I be tale told around the dinner table? And if a tale is told, what would it be?
I began thinking about this after it was stated that the long gone relative of Gwyneth’s was brave. I am taking off for a new country, leaving behind the life I have known, but I do not think of it as brave. I am taking an airplane, not a cargo ship, and my reasons for going are far less dire than those that motivated that woman. If I remained in the US and did not go to Mexico, I would not find myself destitute. My only chance at success does not lie in the boarders of another country. I am, quite simply, leaving for love.
With the far reaches of the world growing less and less foreign to us as technology connects us, will there be anything special about leaving my home country at all? What would my story mean to some great-great-great of mine a century or more down the road? Would it even be told?