Over the course of the past couple of years, I’ve found myself on the receiving end of what seems to be a omnipresent query:
What do you get out of this genealogy thing? You’re here, what does it matter about where you’ve come from?
Coming to terms that many people (some of my family members included) could care less about this journey of discovery and the edification of the shoulders that I stand on was a sobering realization, initially.
Do our ancestors matter? Do they guide our steps?
It was an epiphany of sorts when I realized that they do – and that I had a responsibility as a writer to serve as their proxy – to give voice to them.
When I understood why it was necessary – I was immediately at peace with my efforts.
This is about honor; something, which is extremely important in a world that seems to be devoid of it.
And strangely enough, I remember when the realization hit…
It was a head rush of sorts, but unfortunately it was not a rush of the euphoric variety.
In January of 2014 I sat on the rocks at the shoreline of the Gunpowder River, watching the water rush by – slightly oblivious to the cold bite of winter on my skin, I wandered aimlessly through the caverns of my mind, trying to reconcile my feelings and the epiphany that had made itself known in no uncertain terms.
That… I was a man lost – suffocating in a fog that was a crisis of consciousness.
I committed the cardinal sin – of pledging loyalty and abdicating who I was to a faceless entity.
I procured my identity, my sense of self…
Not to a person or an idea, but to an organization that did not have the capacity to love me back – and justifiably I felt foolish for allowing myself to be bamboozled for as long as I did.
And the cobwebs began to loosen.
Like many people I tumbled headlong down the slippery slope of taking my identity from a place of employment, and I confused the relationships in the workplace as familial rather than transactional.
I had forgone nearly a third of my life wandering there – and I was certain that I would never be able to secure redemption for the treason committed against myself.
I stopped writing.
I stopped because I was convinced that my loyalty would allow me to climb a ladder that wasn’t for me, writing would only complicate that effort I reasoned.
Those people who I thought had my best interests at heart callously demonstrated the situational nature of our relationship – and it was revelatory, as it led to a round of soul searching that forced me to confront the contradictory forces that threatened to sabotage the person that I needed to evolve into.
Their disaffection taught me that I had blissfully swam in the warm waters of complacency with sycophants and parasites without taking the necessary measures to protect myself – and I hated who I had become.
It was against this backdrop that my ancestors saw fit to pull me into the orbit of doing something that I would have been inclined to scoff at in my previous incarnations – a commitment to an ongoing act of selflessness.
My faux foundations were mercifully shaken to the ground in an effort to ensure that I would be made whole.
I saw this all with a searing clarity as I sat on this cluster of rocks, fighting off the urge to become a part of them.
It seems that this unconventional path was the one that I had to take and it served to deepen the reserves of faith that weren’t at my disposal at the outset of the journey.
Remembering the last words from my Auntie decades ago served to break the disconnect from reality, her telling me that:
“Son, if you got a story you better tell it… You don’t got all day to be sitting around your rump, we’re only here for a little bit!”
My recollection of a surreal dream from a couple of days prior was still fresh in my mind.
When I was told to…
“Find their children”.
This dream was different than others than I had – as I struggled to make sense of the why and what it meant.
I lifted myself up from my seated position and continued down the winding path that lead away from the river and out the forest – and I resolved never to look back.
Nearly 3 years later – the purpose of their outreach couldn’t be clearer.
My foundation needed to be comprised of the elemental forces of honor, love and purpose.
And – what better medium than the very thing that served to define and save me many times over?
That of family, my working on the behalf of my Ancestors.
Expanding the footprint of my family has served to be equal parts redemptive and instructive – bearing witness to the resolve, love and loyalty that were littered throughout stories that my Grandmother, Great Aunts, Uncles and Mother regaled me with was surreal at first as I saw them brought to life.
Seeing reflections of other family members in the faces and mannerisms of others filled me with awe and a sense that something bigger was in the works.
We were scattered around the country and around different parts of the globe and it was appropriate that it took my finding them to reconfigure what I thought was the broken pieces of my foundation – into something that more powerful that I could have ever imagined.
It was a miracle of the highest order that I was able to find myself and a measure of redemption in something so priceless.
Something that my blindness caused me to take for granted – the organizational construct, the business of FAMILY.
I work for my Ancestors, in tracing their steps, in telling their stories, in finding their children I honor them and that is the best job ever.
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