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markk

markk

Currently reading

Arthur Vandenberg: The Man in the Middle of the American Century
Hendrik Meijer
Progress: 74/448 pages
Harold Brown: Offsetting the Soviet Military Challenge 1977-1981
Edward C. Keefer, Erin R. Mahan
Progress: 61/815 pages
The Paraguayan War, Volume 1: Causes and Early Conduct
Thomas L. Whigham
Progress: 257/520 pages

Old people suck

This is a note to my future self.

 

Right now I'm trying to arrange my next "Arguing History" podcast. For this one I wanted to do something with an Abraham Lincoln biographer and a Jefferson Davis biographer about the importance of presidential leadership in determining the victor of the Civil War. While there are plenty of the former there are only a couple of the latter, which is why I was positively gleeful when the Jefferson Davis biographer I contacted agreed to do it. He raised an objection to the Lincoln biographer I said I had contacted, however (who never responded at any rate) and gave me a list of four others, all of whom he said he would be happy to do it with.

 

In the weeks that followed I reached out to the four of them in turn. Like the Davis biographer, all of them are renowned scholars of the period, which is a polite way of saying that they've been eligible for Social Security for a few years. This wasn't a problem for me, as I felt they could increase the profile of the podcast and I always enjoy interacting with scholars that I admire. Yet three all declined to participate, while the fourth never even bothered to respond. Undaunted, I decided to contact a fifth person that my Davis biographer suggested as a possibility but whose participation would make scheduling more complicated. To my pleasant surprise I opened my email this morning to find a response from him agreeing to participate.

 

And then before I could inform the Davis biographer of the good news I received an email from him withdrawing his agreement to participate.

 

I immediately sent him a reply saying that one of the Lincoln biographers he recommended did respond positively to my solicitation, but I've been reluctant to check my email ever since because I don't think he will change his mind. His participation was somewhat tentative to begin with, but I had hoped that getting someone he had identified as an historian he would be willing to participate with would be enough to lock him in. Now I suspect it will be too late.

 

In retrospect I should have seen this coming. While most of my podcasts are relatively straightforward interviews, what I do with "Arguing History" is a little different. Looking back at my previous efforts it's probably no surprise that both of them were with historians who skewed more towards middle age, which is probably why they were open to participating in a relatively new media experience. Nevertheless, it's no end of frustrating to see people deterred from doing something that I do my best to make rewarding and even fun just because it's a little different.

 

So my note to my future self is a reminder that when you are old you shouldn't be afraid to do things that you have never tried before. Because even if they sound difficult you may be pleasantly surprised by the outcome -- and even if you don't enjoy it, you'll be richer and more alive for the experience.