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We All Revise Our Own History

I’m reading a book about the times throughout American history the news was wrong. Be it by human error or purposely to promote a cause, sometimes crucial facts were omitted or over exaggerated. Shocking. Terrible, right?


We do it all the time when it comes to our lives and telling our own stories from our past. Sometimes we just don’t remember everything, and sometimes we omit facts purposely or add a little sugar on it to promote our own personal causes or to protect our reputation and ego.

In journalism school, we are taught that we are supposed to be objective no matter what. As you practice journalism in the real world, you realize, whether you set out to or not, your experiences, your culture, your gender, your race make you see things in a certain way, through a certain filtered lens.

If you have the guts, you tell your editors about this handicap/blessing, you gather your facts from as many sides as possible and your story takes shape. However, even the way you string together the facts and in what order you place them may still cause a reader to wonder and ask you point-blank, “Whose side were you on?”

So based on your memories and experiences, when you think back about certain decisions or certain moments, how often do you revise your history?

Have you blocked things out completely because they are too painful to think about?

Have you cleaned some things up to make them seem better than what they were?

Do certain things embarrass you? Do somethings make you feel shameful?

I say yes to all of the above.

One of the most common examples of revised life history is relationship history.

We could think someone was the most amazing, loving person in the world, and when the relationship is over, they have transformed into some heartless villain whose only goal in life was to deceive you, break your heart and do you harm.

Whether I broke up with a man for horrible reasons, or the fact it just didn’t work, I’ve taught myself to remember that there was a reason I loved him. Just because the worst of my exes showed another more negative side I didn’t expect or vice versa, it would be a lie to all of a sudden act like I’m repulsed by their existence on the planet.

I can totally be repulsed by their jacked-up actions, though.

Another great example of favorable revisionist history that men have down, is the sports stories from high school. These shining moments, where they scored the game-winning point in double-overtime, playing through two sprained ankles. Some men will actually have footage to back it up, and be prepared to watch it more than once, slowed down, then paused. Even when you watch the tape, you’ll see he scored that point on the free throw line, and not the three point line, while being double-teamed. It was still the winning point though!

I also love hearing couples tell stories of how they met years later. Their versions are always going to be very different. You may even see them argue about certain details, where one person swears something happened, while the other person swears it didn’t and it was something else.

There we go with those filtered lenses.

There are people who tell the most amazing stories (especially grandparents or people who travel a lot), they are animated and they pull you in with their charm and charisma. Even if everyone knows they are exaggerating, usually the listeners don’t care because it’s so freaking entertaining. And that’s cool. Usually people don’t mind that.

But when it comes to the tougher stuff like negative experiences involving family or romantic relationships, different versions of history often clash and an underlying truth that ties you to these people can be hard for all parties to swallow. Some folks can clearly see, feel and remember their pain from loss, betrayal, secrets, abuse or whatever, while others may have decided that part of the shared history no longer exists.

What do you do with that?

I’m not sure, because sad to say, truth and history are truly two different things.

Tomorrow’s history is today’s news. How will you tell your story?

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