What an interesting challenge this is turning out to be. She included the following list of interview questions in her e-mail so I could think about answers before we talked.
- What were your goals and dreams when growing up?
- Why did you choose those goals?
- What kept you motivated to follow your dreams?
- Who was your mentor or inspiration?
- What obstacles occurred when you were trying to reach your goals?
- How did you overcome these obstacles?
- Did your goals and dreams change along the way?
- Did you help change anyone else's life?
- What were some life lessons that helped you along the way?
- What events in your history stand above others?
- What has been precious to you your whole life?
- Do you have any regrets from your past?
- If you were young again and could live your life over, would you keep the same goals or change them?
- What are your dreams now?
- In one, phrase, or quote, how would you describe your life?
Optional questions:As you can see, these are challenging questions, and well thought-out. I found some especially challenging. As much as I do remember about my childhood, I do not recall having dreams for the future beyond marrying someone tall, handsome, brilliant and rich. My dreams were centered around him and what he could provide: status, security, comfort, and (oh yes!) love! We would have a beautiful home, amazing children, drive new cars, entertain all the time, and travel to exotic places. I would be an important fixture in the community, respected and admired by all.
How did your childhood home affect your life?
What kind of education did you have as a child?
How did war affect your life?
My answer to that question sounds very strange indeed to young girls two generations later. The idea of building a future based on a man’s ability to provide for them is almost beyond their comprehension. But in my day, that was the norm. I had nothing to base dreams of personal achievement on. The only women of achievement I knew were . . . old maids! With one exception: Elizabeth Graves, a noted physicist who had been on the team that developed the A-bomb,, was the mother of a good friend. She was such an exception that the idea anyone else would follow her example was beyond my imagination.
Yes, my answer sounds strange, but that’s all the more reason I need to articulate it (which has not been easy) and publicize it. How else are young girls going to know things weren’t always as they are today? Just as darkness means nothing to a blind person, freedom and opportunity mean much less to those who have never been constrained. Our stories matter!
Working my way down through the rest of the questions, I realized that fully answering those questions would require a sizeable volume. For her class project, Stephanie got the "Cliff Notes" version. Over time, my challenge is to fill in those blanks. We had a great time gabbing for awhile, and she learned many things I may never have thought to tell her without this project. I'm delighted they are doing it, and I hope the idea spreads. I also hope we can encourage the kids to keep it going beyond the interview they are assigned to do. Collecting the stories themselves creates a great opportunity for learning about the past and about people in a uniquely effective way.
This list makes a great starting point for creating your own legacy, even without the involvement of a grandchild. I invite all of you to take them and run with them. Or rather to write with them.
Write now: a story or essay based on one of the above questions. Or write about your hopes and dreams and how they've changed through the years.
Sharon Lippincott, aka Ritergal