I discovered a lot of things a few weeks ago.
I’m really into history– especially my family history. Luckily for me, my ancestors began a journal in the 1800’s, so people like me would be able to read about what they did and why. I’ve always known about it, and I’ve read parts of it here and there, but it was never real to me until a few weeks ago when some of my family decided to go visit the house my ancestors lived in. These particular ancestors immigrated from Scotland to America in the mid-1700’s; they were the first known people in our family to make the trek to the Land of the Free.
The journal (and other articles unrelated to the journal) told me that these people, particularly a man named James, were most prominently associated with the development of a city around where I live. The house they lived in was a well-known mansion in its time, and now stands as one of the city’s historical landmarks. Walking into the house, still mostly preserved, was as surreal as it gets. At least for me. I might’ve been the only one who was truly mesmerized– I’m not really sure. I’m spacey and imagination-prone like that.
Maybe this will explain what I mean. What do you see when you look at this picture?
You might see a window and its lock. That’s certainly the last thing I saw.
Upon seeing this window lock, I immediately began spiraling into a world of long-gone-days and what-if’s. A vivid movie reel began turning in my imagination: James’ thumb turning the latch to lock the window each night, knowing exactly how he had to jimmy it to get it to cooperate. His ensuing thoughts that came with looking out the window into the city he helped create. I thought of Anna, a later ancestor, in one of her big, elaborate dresses with her fingertips brushing the frame of the window as she held a candle in one hand. (I’d like to imagine that she was walking around reading Jane Austen, contemplating her influence and individuality as a woman and human being). I stood there in shock; I was touching the beginnings of my own life. Every decision those people made led to my existence– to my own genetic makeup. Did one of them have a wild imagination like me? Maybe one of them loved music like I do.
One thing is for sure: my ancestors were dreamers.
That, we do have in common. In this single moment with the window lock, I suddenly felt ashamed for my recent withdrawal from writing or pursuing my dreams. My ancestors had nothing. They picked up, one by one, and left their home in Scotland. With no iMessage, FaceTime, Skype, or email, they left. They said goodbye to those they loved and started from the bottom up. They began a city. They created the first bank in that city. They did what they could to contribute to their time, and they triumphed. Some of my later ancestors began the paper that still is still printed in the city, which was taken over and run by a woman in the family. (In her time, that was quite the accomplishment).
“So what am I doing?” I thought. I felt the ghosts of them looking out the window with me– looking down the hill at their lifetime of work. What is stopping me from chasing possibilities? It runs in my blood. I’m ready to take off sprinting, to not look back, to start fresh, to live with no promises, to add my stitch to the tapestry of history. I want to feel the fire in my veins when I make a brash decision to do the unexpected. I want to look at my creations and see that I made them not because I could, but because I couldn’t stop myself. I want to stand with my ancestors as people who not only imagined, but also DID.
I carry the dreamer gene. What an absolute shame it would be if I continued in my just-exist lifestyle. It’s time to tear off the thick layers of fear and failure. It’s time to be better. It’s time to do better.