This afternoon I met Barbara. A woman in her 70s who has singlehandedly been managing the archives at my internship. She knows exactly where the pieces are to any narrative whether they were displayed on exhibits or shared as inside stories in the pantry. My supervisor introduced me as the digital asset management intern. Barbara smiled very kindly at me but also a little too long which seemed to suggest something along the lines of “ah so this is the new little punk with a computer whose pushing me to retirement”. A few minutes later she did mention retirement twice throwing me a smile intermittently. While we were looking at various collections whether it was the famous ones or the most obscure ones Barbara knew exactly where they were. Most of them were in unnamed boxes with codes only she could understand. She had been working with the museum for 40 years, building and managing the archives. I was puzzled the entire time how she could dedicate so many years on this massive project. My friends and I are constantly pushed towards seeing destinations as stepping points to something better. How could someone put away half of their lives to being away from the limelight and doing the work necessary to bring these artifacts and fossils to life?
One of the reasons I had come to New Haven was the possibility of extending my comfort zone. To be in a different environment , to learn technical skills and live in country that claims to be great and is constantly looking at reviving some mythical status it had achieved. Living in a new place can be hard. It’s like starting from scratch each time, not only reaching out to others but at the same time reinventing yourself in a new environment. When I was on an exchange I met my friend Jessica who was also an exchange student. She was exchanging in Utrecht for a year and that semester she was juggling two theater internships. Over lunch, we discussed why we constantly wanted to push our comfort zones. What made us want to reach for more when we could have easily chosen a place of comfort? Life doesn’t always have to be that complicated. We both came to the conclusion that it was each chance we take that we feel a 100% just by relying on ourselves. I was reminded of my British Council teacher and her great advice. “TV can be fun. But these are just 2nd hand stories. Rather than living vicariously through these fictional characters make your own stories. Actually, do something.”. For some reason, over these 6 years, I have held that advice as a golden rule to make things happen, to write my own stories.
Barbara didn’t just archive what was given to her at the museum. She actively sought material and stories to fill a small room and let them overflow till they gave her an office. Most things she gathered, were searched and earned. I think for us to truly be happy with past experiences that are archived down memory lane we need to have created stories for our own selves. We need to have lived.