By Mark W. Danielson
Once upon a time, newspapers were a primary source of information frequently titled The [name your city] Chronicle or The [name your city] Times. But with changing times, many newspapers are also chronicled in e-format. A side benefit is our own lives are now documented through the social media.
Now before anyone gets upset, mull over the positive side to this. Thanks to the social media, we now have a continuous record of how we lived our day, thus in a very real sense our e-mail, text messages, and tweets have created an unedited autobiography in more detail than we ever imagined. Assuming you don’t delete these e-mail, one day your kids might actually gain a sense of who you were and why you made your decisions. Of course, if you have things you don’t want them to see, you had better password protect them or delete them.
I have written before about my only link to my globetrotting Indiana Jones photo/journalist grandfather is his writing. Without Maynard Owen Williams’ written text, I would never have known that he dined with Laurence of Arabia or that he was among the first to enter the newly discovered King Tut’s tomb. Granted, most of us lead far less exciting lives, but through e-mail we at least leave a record.
For years I tried to get my father to write his autobiography, and in recent years he actually did work on it, but as with most people he passed before ever completing it. Still, I have a daily chronicle from the daily e-mails we exchanged over the last fifteen years and that is far better than nothing.
Recently I decided it was time to trade e-mails for storage space, but I wanted to permanently preserve my conversations with my father. To do this I opened a Word document and then starting with the oldest e-mail, copied and pasted its contents, backed it up with a flash drive, and then deleted it. The process was tedious and slowed even more when I included photos I had attached to the e-mail, but since these photos were referenced in the text it was necessary. To do this I had to first view it, save it, call up the saved photo, copy it, and finally paste it into the Word document.
In the end my unedited chronicle totaled 652 pages and over 347 thousand words, which equates to three long novels, or four to six novellas. Now I have a good record of my father’s and my daily lives preserving many priceless memories. At some point I will edit this document and save the posterity-worthy pearls. Most likely, I can narrow it down to the size of a single novel. In the meantime, I will leave it for a rainy day when I want to reflect on my father’s wisdom and that is indeed something to look forward to.