It was last December when I travelled back to Sunyani, a city in the Brong Ahafo Region of Ghana. I have an affinity for my grandparent’s house here. A nicely sorted garden sits far in the front yard, with planted veggies, assortment of herbaceous plants and surrounding trees (around the house too). One sunny day, we were idly sitting in front of the house having a nonchalant conversation about life.
“When I was younger than you are now, I was already working at the market (with little to no real education), devoted to earning a living for my family…” Like a tranquil flow of tides, her voice drifted into my senses as my mind wandered back in time to when my grandma was young.
Every life is a story. Whenever our parents or grandparents tell us about theirs, we can identify similarities between them and see certain patterns. There is always a glimpse of wisdom in these patterns, these stories. That’s why people say wisdom is like fine wine—it takes time to age.
I’m always so fascinated by the stories of my family members. Very much like the tales from your childhood, family stories seem so unreal and far away. Yet as we mature, the authenticity of those stories emerges and manifests into something we can actually understand and hold on to. And that something is what we call our family heritage.
From birth, we have been moulded by the culture of our family. The history, knowledge, values and traditions encompassed in our family heritage significantly influence us as individuals. The great Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “every man is a quotation from all his ancestors.” It’s never a coincidence that we can find parts of ourselves in our family’s narrative, for this narrative is also the story of where we come from.
My grandma has always been an inspiration to me. Straying from a sweet and soft-spoken “grandma” image, she is also tough, strong, vibrant, audacious and loud(very loud:when she wants to be anyway). From a very young age, she was determined to make her own way in life.
And so, my grandma embraced uncertainty in her life, and she overcame the challenges and hardship of starting a family without any proper education (in a very competitive era), creating a successful business (which she refuses to quit) that helped make a prominent Midwife out of the families only daughter and in essence proving the naysayers wrong. It sounds too surreal to be a true story, doesn’t it?
The hard work of generations before us has enabled us, the millennials, to explore immense opportunities within our society. Those captivating stories of diligence, strife and hard work, are what inspire us and propel us forward. The story of my grandma is just the tip of the generational iceberg (my father,grandpa too…). For that, I take pride in my family heritage and in what my ancestors were able to accomplish.
But, of course, success never comes without impediments. My grandma remarked how, when she started selling, in a quite uncomfortable setting to be sincere, she would stay up late, selling from dawn to dusk (repetitively across the days, months and years). And when she was done for the day, the weariness she felt so deep in her bones almost prompted her to second-guess the path she had chosen.
“After all, people are judging you by the results you reap from your business, seldom do they consider the hard work and determination you have dedicated to achieving all that,” she remarked, chuckling softly.
Success is only reserved for those who persist in achieving their goals. Many of us have heard this, yet when it is illustrated by someone close to you, someone in your family, the message asserts itself in the most profound way.
This is the power of family heritage. The knowledge and values encapsulated in these stories become invaluable blueprints that we can use as a reference, so that when we face challenges or uncertainties in our lives, instead of panicking, we can understand and acknowledge them as a natural part of life.
In today’s era of speed and data, heritage has been relegated to mere footnotes in our family’s books. They are often watered down and forgotten through the eroding tides of time. We must remember that a part of us comes from our family heritage that we inherit, and that our heritage holds intangible values which cannot be demolished. We must remember and be willing to preserve our heritage to pass onto the next generation, and the next.