The Lives I Might Have Lived

I’m a history buff. I studied history for my bachelor’s degree and area studies for my master’s. Since I was a child, I have fantasized about living in particular historical eras and places, being a part of the periods and events which have shaped humanity’s shared heritage. I also fell in love with the academic storytelling art of history; it is the story of the past, the narrative of how we understand ourselves and where we came from.

I have often thought about what my place would have been in particular periods of history. What role would I have played? One historical era which has always fascinated me is the Pre-Modern era. In a Eurocentric sense, it could be equated to the Renaissance era, but I do not mean to limit this only to Europe. For Human Society, this basically signifies the era prior to the advent of steam-powered machinery or the prevalent use of personal firearms.

What Would Have been My Profession?

So, what role would I have played in a Pre-Modern society? The various roles my imagination has taken on have changed over the years.

In my adolescent years and before, I was a soldier, the descendant of a long line of warriors, fighting for my land or my people. This was an entirely romanticized version of the soldier’s life. None of the hardship of long marches or living in the elements, and certainly not of the horrifying realities of war, were present in my mind as I daydreamed of fighting in some of history’s most important military engagements. Then, I would swap war stories in taverns; the grizzled veteran who had seen and done things few could imagine. This was, of course, fed by my love of the Redwall novels by Brian Jacques, in which the protagonist is always fighting against the overwhelming powers of darkness, and always triumphs.

Later, after participating in a study abroad trip during college, I pictured myself as a sailor, battling the currents and the winds on a three-masted ship sailing to every corner of the world. I would visit all of the major port cities, drinking and carousing in cities I had never seen before with people I would never see again. And then, I would return to my ship, losing myself in the isolating experience of roaming the seas for years on end. This picture encapsulated the wanderlust that took me after my return from study abroad, and has stayed with me since.

Sometime after college, coincidentally while looking for work, I wondered if I might have been better suited as a craftsman; a blacksmith, or a carpenter — some profession to keep my hands busy and my mind sharp. I would become an artisan, selling my wares and passing my skills on to apprentices.

The other day, while walking my dog, I came to a new realization about what I might have been: a travelling bard. What pursuit could have better combined my innate curiosity about new people and places, my love of travel, and my penchant for telling stories (particularly while drinking)? A friend of mine once remarked how hanging out and drinking with me always turned into “story time”. Would I have fallen into travelling from town to town, sharing my stories or songs or music with the townsfolk, enjoying the local brews, and then moving on to somewhere new? I’d like to think so.

What would you have been in Pre-Modern society? Would you ultimately have lived the same life you do now?

Steve D

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