The following is an excerpt from the Untold Stories Project, an oral history project dedicated to capturing the stories of elders and their experiences of life before technology. The Untold Stories Project is a nonprofit. You can donate to their Kickstarter by clicking here. You can nominate an elder to be interviewed by clicking here.
“Are you serious?” I implored. We were sitting curled among each other on the couch, familiarity breeding comfort. I’d always had a hard time staying warm during winter, and that day in March I was hoping for some contact warmth.
“Yeah. Earlier this week.”
My boyfriend, Tyler, had just told me of a story he’d heard on NPR a couple days ago that proclaimed that children being born now will never know what a telephone pole is. It added serious perspective to the rapidity of technology’s advance.
That moment was my wake up call, I think. I had been working countless hours to rebuild my website design company after rebranding at the end of 2014. Frantic is the word that best describes my efforts, and I hadn’t yet noticed how I was suffering. In a few months I’d come to reflect that my eyes were losing their sharpness, my back was aching, and my friendships had thinned. But at this point, I only knew I was tired.
That conversation with my boyfriend took place a month after I’d started a side project called Untold Stories (now a nonprofit called the Untold Stories Project). In February of 2015 I was tired from working so hard for my own small gain, and wanted instead to spend my time inspiring others. The idea was simply to drive across the country to find meaningful stories and photograph them for a book.
By the time Tyler told me of the bulletin he’d heard, I’d already begun to veer the project toward interviewing elders. I needed to narrow my original scope, and the one idea I noticed myself talking of over and over was meeting with elders and veterans. Maybe I gravitated that way because my grandparents passed before I got to know them so I personally felt the urgency to record our elders’ history. It was that story that put the final touch on the project. Over the next weeks I noticed I spoke more and more of technology, how we’ve recklessly abandoned our lives to it, the effects it’d had on me (physical and emotional), the studies that were being done about it, and their findings. I was realizing this was my new path.
Today the project has one goal - to answer the pressing question “How is technology changing us” by interviewing those that lived before it. My first love was writing, so the goal is still a book. My second love was Anthropology, so the interviews are meticulously thought out and the sample broad. My third love was photography, so I photograph every person I interview.
This book is not about me, and yet it is only about me. I noticed during some of my first interviews that I felt like a conduit. I still get that feeling. I am given these narratives in confidence that I will carry them to the rest of the world. The elders want their voices heard, and they seem to recognize that they hold the key to understanding the changes we’ve seen in our culture as of late. But the project isn’t just about my catching the ball and then thrusting it back to the world. I’m changing. With every interview with an elder, another piece is placed inside me, shifting who I am just a bit. After the thousands of interviews I have scheduled across the nation this fall, the shift will be profound. In that way, I’m becoming the project.
In recording the changes I’m experiencing and chronicling their origin - that is, the interviews - I hope to provide our youth with a guidepost to the greater joys of life.