Thank you Michael Apted. And thank you PBS for bringing Apted’s seminal work in chronicling personal history to American audiences.
This week’s airing of Apted’s “49 Up” also revived the notion that true “reality television” can be riveting watching despite the shameless co-opting, distortion and exploitation of the term by America’s commercial TV panderers.
In case you missed it, PBS this week broadcast the latest in Apted’s long-running series of films chronicling the lives of several people from his native England who entered this world a half century ago. Since 1964, when the youth were 7 years old, Apted has tracked down the participants every seven years and filmed interviews with them, thus the “7 Up” name for the series.
At each juncture, Apted quizzes them about their life at the moment, what’s changed in the last seven years and what do they see in their future. Each resulting film is fascinating, peeling away the life stories of real people in their own words.
The “kids” are 49 now and their personal histories are littered with job loss, splintered relationships and shattered dreams. But there are stories of fulfillment, redemption, hope and promise as well. Some participants drop out for awhile and return. Some drop out and stay out.
In my legacy letter workshops, I attempt a similar exercise, asking participants to write about their best friends at various stages of their lives. Ironically, I use seven year intervals, beginning at age 7. Changes in our family life tend to occur gradually, almost seamlessly, making them difficult to detect. But, if you look at your life in intervals using a reference point outside the family, such as your best friend every seven years, the changes become more noticeable.
Try it. List your best friends at various stages of your life and write everything you remember about them – what you did together, what you learned from each other, what you wanted out of life at that time. You’ll have your own personal “7 Up” series.