Tell Your Story
I’ve been listening to Hamilton while driving to and from work, which — thanks to a recent move — takes me through Minute Man National Park and past the site of the opening battle of the American Revolution.
I’ve lived in Massachusetts all my life, first on the south shore and then, after college, in a slew of Boston-adjacent towns. Everyone I grew up with went to Plimoth Plantation and visited the USS Constitution for school field trips. I’ve been surrounded by and immersed in the remnants of the Revolution for my entire life, so much so that the rich history became nothing more than background noise; And I love history! I developed an obsession with Irish history after I learned of my great-grandfather, Bartley O’Toole’s involvement in the Irish War of Independence, but the history of my own country’s break from British rule was a footnote in my mind, relegated to vague memories of grade school history classes and field trips. This despite the fact that my ancestors had just as much — if not more — involvement in the American Revolution as my great-grandfather had in the Irish one.
One branch of my family (via my father’s father) has been in America since the 1600’s; In New England, specifically. I can trace my lineage to all of the New England states, and then back to all of the countries of the British Isles. My 6th great-grandfather, Nathan Stone, fought in the Revolution.
He was at Lexington on April 19, 1775.
Like I said, I’ve been listening to Hamilton. One of the threads running throughout the show is the idea of Hamilton’s obsession with his legacy, and who tells a person’s story after they are dead and gone.
For most people, once two or three generations have passed, the answer is no one. No one tells their story because they were not significant to history in a way that can be measured or recorded. Most people do not get the kind of immortality that people like Alexander Hamilton achieve by being a part of the narrative. Most of us will never be in the history books, and even our descendants will forget about us in a few short generations.
Really, that’s OK. It’s okay that most of us don’t know anything at all about our 6th-great-grandfathers. Not for me, though. For me, understanding who I am and what I stand for starts with understanding where I come from, and where I come from isn’t just where I was born or grew up. Who I am is fundamentally, if subtly and immeasurably, shaped by the lives of everyone that came before me.
My story starts with Nathan Stone’s story. It starts with Bartley O’Toole’s story. It starts with the men and women who boarded ships in the 17th century to find a new life in the Colonies, and with whoever came before them in England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Italy, Lithuania, and wherever else my predecessors hailed from. In order for me to exist, exactly as I am now, all those peoples lives had to unfold a certain way, they had to meet certain people and go certain places.
My story starts with theirs. I am their legacy. By remembering them, I can grant them immortality.
I am the keeper of their place in the narrative.
Inspired by a handful of articles here on Medium, I’ve decided to try and write something every day. I like writing, but I have a hard time finding motivation and inspiration, so this is my way of creating a new habit. This is the Day One.