Wednesday, March 27, 2013

give me a child until he is seven.

"Give me a child until he is seven, and I will show you the man."

- Jesuit motto


Jordan and I have spent the last several weeks watching Seven Up, a British documentary series following 14 children from 1964 until present, with a film released every seven years. The first film debuted when the children were seven; they're now 56 years old, and the series follows them through the ups and downs of college, marriage, divorce, middle age, children, and grandchildren. 

The entire series is nothing short of captivating (you may have seen them reviewed on Joanna Goddard's popular blog here); we've loved the series so much, we contemplated finding the latest installment in theaters. (A mission rather impossible in our neck of the woods.) 

Each film opens with footage from the original 1964 installment; the children are young and vivacious, and they play together as the narrator lays out the film's premise: 

"Give me a child until he is seven, and I will show you the man."

It's a Jesuit motto, but the film uses it to suggest that who these children are at seven -- keeping in mind economic status, race, gender, and parental influence -- will undoubtedly determine who they are in adulthood. And although the children grow and change over the years, the motto seems to ring eerily true: Who they were at seven is who they are at 21, 35, 49, and 56. 

Of course, the entire concept is fascinating, and as Jordan and I tell our friends and family to watch the movies (Seven Up through 49 Up are available on Netflix), we also frequently find ourselves discussing whether we're anything like who we were at seven. Does the premise of the film ring true for us?

I've asked my parents, remembered back to family videos, looked through old pictures, and I'd have to say: Yes. It's uncanny, but it's true. 

At seven, I was quiet, but not shy. I adored school. I wanted to be a teacher and a writer. I loved my family and treasured my friends, but I was perfectly content playing alone or reading a good book. I honestly think I'm very much who I was at seven, and when I look at videos and pictures of Jordan, I have to say: He is too. 

Last week, my parents brought over a load of mementos -- trophies, journals, pictures, schoolbooks -- from my closet back home. I have no idea what I'll do with most of this stuff, but as I flipped through the pages of old letters and diaries, I realized it's an absolute treasure trove, a time capsule into who I was 20 years ago. 

"Nothing has happened yet today," wrote 9-year-old me back on December 21, 1994. "Nothing I'd go down in history for."

It's so hysterical, so melodramatic, but so... me. I'm all the time analyzing my life, trying to figure out if what I'm doing is big enough to make a difference. (My friends lovingly refer to me as "introspective," but I think we all know that's code for: Get your head out of the clouds, Annie.)

When I watch family videos, I love the little girl I see, mostly because I see a lot of her now, today, as I sell books and tend my garden and play Jeopardy on the couch with my husband. 

The Up series made me realize that so much of who we are is wrapped up in who we were.

I wonder: Do you find the same to be true for you?

(And if you find any of this remotely interesting, you should really watch Seven Up and its counterpart films. Fascinating, fascinating stuff.) 


Brittany said...

How cute is that photo of you :)

After reading your review and Joanna's on A Cup of Jo, I'm so interested in these films! I love this kind of stuff--psychology and development and identity. I'm so glad they're on Netflix. I'll be diving in soon for sure.

Angela said...

I love this series!! We started watching them for one of my human growth and development classes in college. I haven't seen the newest one though. I will definitely have to find it!