I have struggled to find a purpose after retiring from the Army. I served as an Infantryman and spent many years overseas fighting in America’s wars. Upon retirement in 2014, I enrolled as an undergraduate student at Liberty University and completed a Bachelor’s degree in Interdisciplinary Studies in June 2018. I spent the next year as a graduate student in Liberty’s Baptist Theological Seminary where I completed a certificate program in Biblical Hebrew. I have now just begun a Master’s in Composition.

I began my writing career as a child. I was enthralled with poetry because I liked the sounds and rhythm ordinary words could make. My favorite poem was, and is today, “Rime of the Ancient Mariner” by Samuel Taylor Coleridge. One of my favorite stanzas was:

The fair breeze blew, the white foam flew,

The furrow followed free;

We were the first that ever burst

Into that silent sea.[1]

I love the rhythm, the rhyme, and the alliteration. That poem has been in my head for decades and it set the tone and motion for the poetry I would write throughout my life. It was also the first place where I read about God apart from the Bible. In addition to poetry, I read history more than anything else. When I do delve into fiction, it is usually a classic of some kind. Usually.

After reading “An Autobiography of an Archivist” by Nan Johnson, I believe I have, at least for now, found that purpose and direction I need. While reading about the research she conducted for her projects, I was drawn to two things. First, she was a collector. She collected items, artifacts, articles, journals, and publications for her research; and beyond the act of collecting, it was a learning process which shaped her development as an archivist.[2] The second idea is that a researcher will not always find the evidence they seek, and may even find data in places they had not considered. In her words, “so often evidence I had not anticipated would lead me to knowledge I had not envisioned.”[3]

The aforementioned article connected a number of practices and ideas common in my research. I collect. I collect many things: books, magazine articles, artifacts, and coins. Most things I keep have some historical value, at least in reference to another time and place where something happened. Even in an online environment, websites like Project Gutenberg (www.gutenberg.org) offer books in many languages and topics, all in the public domain, which I download, categorize, and file on my computer.[4] In previous research projects, I have found that I do not always find what I am seeking, but what I do find often leads me to facts and knowledge I had not considered. It is an exhilarating endeavor, and one I liken to treasure hunting.

I may become an historian, and I may become an archivist. The common thread that ties the two ideas together is writing. Writing is my outlet – my crazy place that allows me to create fictional yarns, hopeful poems, and truth-seeking essays. I love writing almost as much as I love reading, and, Lord willing, I will continue to write until my last breath.

[1] Coleridge, Samuel Taylor. “Rime of the Ancient Mariner.” Poetry Foundation. Accessed August 22, 2019.  https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/43997/the-rime-of-the-ancient-mariner-text-of-1834

[2] Johnson, Nan. 2010. “Autobiography of an Archivist” In Working in the Archives: Practical Research Methods for Rhetoric and Composition, edited by Alexis Ramsay, Wendy Sharer, Barbara L’eplattenier, and Lisa Mastrangelo, 294. Southern Illinois

[3] Ibid, 291.

[4] http://www.gutenberg.org, accessed August 22, 2019.

(Image from: https://i.telegraph.co.uk/multimedia/archive/02093/v1_2093567b.jpg)