Can you name your great-great-grandmother?
If you can, try going a generation further back. What were the names of your ancestors that lived in the 1890s? You definitely had them, they were there, picking their nose and being told by their mothers not to. As well as ancestors alive during the Crusades, and 2000 BC, and 15000 BC (although their mothers might not have had a problem with booger-picking, we don’t know). Some might have seen mammoths, some might have frozen to a very uncomfortable death during a winter (can you imagine?!).
In fact, you have a maternal ancestor that was alive for every single second that has passed from the moment the first humans came into existence to right now. Today, you’re the last living link that stretches back across millennia. Through wars and pillages, marriages and heartbreaks, dutiful children and stillbirth babies, the chain makes up the folds of a million human experiences. Some of them held swords! Others were illiterate, or died violently, or a really bad kid.
We’re just the ones alive now. The future shines as bright for us as it did for our great-great-grandmothers when they were in their 20-somethings. Opportunities and hopes, technological marvels and tumultuous societies. One of our grandparents were the first to ride a horse. One of them was the first to feel the heat of a manmade fire on some dark, strange night eons ago. They whispered in hush tones to each other in a language long forgotten about the warmth lapping their hands. They all lived in the moment, their moment being the one humanity was going through.
These stories, their stories, they’re true. They’re right behind you, a long line of ancestors whose hopes and blood are yours now. They are your family.
The tapestry of their stories, stories that stretch to this moment, this tapestry barely registers in our day to day happenings. We eat food they would have considered a feast, sleep in a bed once reserved for kings. We dance to strange music and fall in love, read stories and travel in giant metal cylinders to kingdoms far away. We contemplate our place in the universe with a much more vast cache of knowledge to draw from, yet somehow remain just as confused and scared towards the purposelessness of life.
Our ancestors each had a narrative for their lives. Their narratives were as nuanced, detailed, and charged as ours are. They too were victims of their passions and desires, champions of their hopes and heroes of their stories.
What do we want to be when we grow up? Do we want to be the great-great-grandparent that our future generations will remember? What does that entail?
We are here thanks to the grace of three thousand mothers, each one living her own life, each with her own hopes and aspirations, each who cried and laughed.
If something’s the matter, it helps to think about the big picture. Despite the richness of our experiences, everything, down to the fact that we even exist, is insignificant against the enormity of time. The least we can do with the time we have is leave the world a better place.
Or, you know, make Medium posts about deep stuff and all.