Whenever I tell people I’m a history major, they never respond “Oh wow, that’s so cool.” It’s always something along the lines of “what do you want to do with that” or “are you gonna be a teacher?” The truth is when I opted to major in history, I did so because it was a passion of mine, not because it was something I wanted to get a job in. Even so, I do feel I should share my passion with you and in doing so, instill in you an interest in studying history for its incredible value.
We all hear sayings like those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it or you have to know where you’ve come from to know where you are going. Although these are cliché statements, they happen to carry a lot of truth. The first statement implies that the value to remembering history is avoiding doing the same thing again, particularly the negative things. The second statement implies the importance of evaluating what has happened in the past against the path to be taken in the future. Both sayings make it clear that the study of history is important, not only for preventing bad from happening again, but also for having a clear sense of direction moving forward.
This isn’t to say that everyone should be majoring in history at college. In the grand scheme of things, this is most likely a waste of time and money for most people. In fact, history is not unique in its importance and value. There are many subjects people should take an interest in even if it is not something they study in school. This includes science, literature, foreign language, information technology, and athletics to name a few. But perhaps more than any other subject, history tends to be neglected as a hobby or pastime.
People tend to fall into the mindset that history is no longer relevant. After all, how is what happened in the past going to affect anything in the present for me? To this, I would say it matters in everything. For example, consider the fact that your parents are from the past. You were born and raised by people who are older than you and have a different life experience from your own. In fact, the way they raised you was impacted by the way they were raised, what they went through, what they knew. Your parents didn’t have an innate sense of how to be a parent or how to be a person. These things were determined by personal experience, all of which they learned at a young age and carried with themselves later on in life. But your parents don’t remain young and neither will you. That part of you will always be in the past even though it affects your present and future.
Think too about all the things that have happened to you that have led to who you are now. Whether getting in a car accident, being in a relationship, graduating from school, losing a family member or close friend, getting injured, or simply reading a book, there are many things that affect who you are. We take for granted all the things that have happened to us in the past, and yet, it is the past that has shaped us and defined who we are to ourselves and to others around us.
In truth, history is the collective unique experiences of many individuals. History likes to sum up things in generalizations. However, these generalizations come from commonalities in the experiences of other people. For instance, think about how multiple people remember the same event. Consider three people at a football game. One person might remember the energy and feel of the crowd. Another might remember a significant play that took place that defined that game. And yet another may remember the bonding time they had with a friend. All three of these individuals had a unique perspective and experience unlike the other, and yet, all three could piece together common memories of that game to give us a historical picture of what that game was like to be there.
Truth be told, I’m actually surprised more people aren’t interested in history. People like to watch movies, read books, play videos games, do all kinds of things that take up their time and interest. History itself is full of just as many stories of people, places, events, and stories that could captivate even the most tech savvy teenager or past-their-prime elderly person. But unlike these other options, the best part about history is that it’s something that actually happened. A person can’t turn a blind eye to history saying “that’s not possible” or “that’s unbelievable.” History is exactly what happened. Nothing more, nothing less. It’s the most believable information we can read about, watch, or experience. Nothing else compares to it in this aspect alone.
Of course, I can only hope to inspire in whoever reads this the same passion I have in me to study history. Sure, it may not always impact your current standing in life. Sometimes, it may be boring to learn about something so amazing, so incredible like the Roman empire that lasted only a brief moment in time before it disappeared just as quickly. And heck, it may be not worthwhile to learn the origin behind a word like “debugging.” But the fact remains, history will always have an impact on our lives, from the completely mundane to the most important moments of our lives. If you knew something impacted your life as much as breathing, don’t you think it would be worthwhile to at least give it some thought and consideration? That’s how important history seems to me.