I've been watching '49 Up', the UK documentary in which a number of English boys and girls are interviewed at age seven, and then every seven years thereafter. The program makes compelling viewing, and I'm very grateful to each of the contributors for sharing so honestly. I'm especially grateful given that several of them confess to their discomfort with the periodic interviews, saying that they dread this intrusion in their lives, don't enjoy revealing their personal issues on camera, and find it unpleasant that viewers interpret their lives in ways that are simply not accurate.
So I thought I'd begin this blog by saying 'thank you' to the generous men and women whose stories are shared internationally through the Seven Up series, because even though they share reluctantly, they enrich our lives as we sit watching.
It's quite an extraordinary thing to see a life on fast forwards: a seven year old child in black-and-white footage who speaks up clearly and precisely about his or her likes and dislikes suddenly reappears as a tentative or resistant teenager; then we meet them again as a young adult blossoming into a new career or a new relationship, then as a mature adult who is reassessing life having been hurt by a painful divorce, perhaps... It's a privilege to learn from their lessons and a joy to celebrate their triumphs with them.
Being a writer, life stories deeply interest me, and I particularly appreciate honest and heart-felt sharing because when we allow ourselves to be real and self-revealing, we dispel taboos and we validate both ourselves and others. Each person who comes out from behind the social mask to be real is a blessing in a world that is often more concerned about appearances than authenticity. I've had a few reminders in recent times about my own tendency to smile politely when I don't feel like it at all, and I'm challenging myself to step up and be more authentic, albeit respectfully.
Speaking of respect, I salute Michael Apted, the Director of the series, who plays his intrusive interviewer role with great sensitivity, it seems to me. And while I am sure that his interviewees would not always agree with me, as he certainly hones in on all the core issues and asks very confronting questions at times, again, the contribution that this program makes to our understanding of ourselves and each others is significant. So thank you to the Seven Uppers.