2020 has been a unique year. Document it for future generations.
By Natalie Strong
Here we are, at the end of another year, and what a year it’s been! If I had a dollar for every time I heard the words, “We are living through history,” I’d have so many dollars! The ubiquity of that statement has gotten me thinking about history, the ways in which history is made, and, more importantly, how it is recorded.
This magazine, for example, is one record of history, specifically our history here in El Segundo. Likewise, the Herald is keeping our history, the Beach Reporter, the L.A. Times, etc. The farther out the circle extends, the bigger picture the story becomes. With the events of this year looming large, so many “unprecedented” events, so many “once in a century” records being set, the American story and the human story will be told in all its variations and in all its formats. There will be no shortage of analysis of what went wrong, what went right, and what just went—and why.
But who is the keeper of the small stories? Your stories in your homes? It has to be you. Only you can record what happens in your home. These records could be primary sources for the study of our times. When we look back through history, we see that earlier decades are rife with primary sources. Letters, journals, guestbooks, address books, household accounting books, and more. All manner of handwritten, personal information was produced and saved for posterity. Our modern society has moved away from handwritten records in favor of digital systems that have made everything easier, but they’ve also made a lot of it less human. Touching a zip drive that contains files that once belonged to someone else will not have the impact that holding a book that an individual held, with words written by that person’s hand, will have. I’d love to see a revival of journaling come out of this strange time in which we are living.
I have a suspicion I know what you’re thinking. I have thought it myself many times, “Who am I? Why would anyone care what I have to say when I’m gone?” It’s true, I’m not a celebrity or a historical figure, but I am undeniably a person living in this time. So are you. I am also a woman, a mother, a wife, an artist, a writer, a guinea pig owner, an apartment dweller… all of these circumstantial elements, plus all of my unique experiences, add up to a person who’s never lived before and will never live again. Famous or not, I can offer a perspective absolutely unique to history. So can you. Each of you.
So write it down. In a book, in a letter, on a piece of paper, however you choose to do it. We can create precious artifacts for future generations. I could be the next Laura Ingalls Wilder. And you could be the next one after that! 2021 is coming, and there’s no time like New Year’s Day to begin a new project. Please consider creating primary sources. The future will thank you.
Natalie Strong (pictured) is an artist, art teacher, writer, and parent living in El Segundo.