Making the once known known again.

The Up Series

2005 “49 Up” promo image

Recently I told some friends the entire story of my preschool experience.  It didn’t take long to tell though because my experience only lasted for one month.  Yes my fellow excavators, I am a preschool dropout.  Even though it took place 27 years ago I remember my time at Gerber Preschool vividly.  At that age I was painfully shy and no one could attest to this more than Ms. Karen and her fellow workers at Gerber.  One of the walls there had a huge mirror on it. Instead of building lego castles or playing dress up with the other kids, I would just stare in that mirror for what seemed like hours.  Ms. Karen did all she could to get me to be social but it was impossible to get me away from that mirror.  One day as I was staring at myself she brought me a hula hoop to play with out of desperation.  Instead of playing with it, I let it fall to the ground.  The image of me standing in a hula hoop in front of that mirror is burned into my memory.  Shortly after that I stopped going to preschool.

Back then I didn’t know that I was shy.  I just knew I had no interest in being in preschool and that it made me uncomfortable. It’s only with hindsight that I see what was really happening. I should have just sucked it up and stepped out of that hula hoop. Unfortunately most of us aren’t able to have these realizations until we’re 20 or 30 years past when we needed them.  If my eleven-year-old self had watched a video of my four-year-old self, lessons would have been learned and future mistakes avoided.  Today’s excavation is about a group of people who were in that exact situation.

“The Up Series” is a documentary series that has followed the same group of children since they were seven-years-old in 1964.  A new documentary is produced every seven years so all of the children involved have literally watched themselves grow up.  Each film is named for the age of the participants at the time so “Seven Up” means the kids were seven-years-old, “Seven plus Seven” means they were fourteen-years-old, etc.  The latest installment, “56 Up” premiered in May of this year.  Each premiere is broadcast on the BBC (British Broadcasting Company.)

The original purpose of the series was to prove that a child’s social class would determine his future.  Class structure was very strong in the UK at the time and director Michael Alsted set out to have the project be a political commentary of sorts.  Over time he has switched his focus from political to personal.  Alsted could not help but become attached to the participants and have a vested interest in their lives.  The same holds true for the viewer.  Alsted never made the participants sign contracts, so each of them could participate as much or as little as they wanted. Ten of the original fourteen kids have been in every installment, and thirteen of the fourteen appeared in the most recent “56 Up.”

The influence of “The Up Series” has spanned across the globe.  Several countries including the United States, Japan and South Africa have tried to recreate the series with participants of their own.  The series is also seen as a forerunner to society’s current obsession, reality television.  The difference here is that there are no million dollar prizes at stake.  Real life is happening.

While watching the series I kept wondering if the participants’ lives would have been different had they not had visual records.  This led me to think about my own life and how it would have been different had I been more social at Gerber.  Part of me wants to get into a Delorean, go back to 1985 and tell my four-year-old self to have fun with the other kids.  To take a risk.  To step out of that hula hoop.  My life is incredible now but I sometimes wonder how many amazing watercolor creations could have been hanging on our fridge if I had stepped out of the hoop and learned to paint with the others.  The subjects of “The Up Series” have had that opportunity to go back in time every seven years and tell their younger selves whatever they want.

How would you feel about taking part in a documentary like “The Up Series?”  What are the pros and cons?  What would you tell your younger self if you could go back in time?  What was the hula hoop that you needed to step out of?  Are you still in a hula hoop?

Let me know your thoughts.

-Ryan Chavez


28 comments on “The Up Series

  1. Nicole
    July 9, 2012

    4 yrs old is ROUGH! When I read the “lead in” story it made me chuckle and empathize all at the same time because it is SO real and SO common. It is a rough transition. New, strange adults; new rules, a bunch of random kids all while being ripped out of your former routine. The only life you have known. It was completely normal.

    Pearce Mclain’s School of Dance, that was the scene of my first“Hula Hop” moment. After months of prep I stood before a crowd and showed off my Tap, Ballet and Jazz skills. I was also four and also shy. Immediately upon exiting the stage I vomited all over the place. The crowd, the lights, cameras and applause was just TOO much I guess and I quit dance immediately. If I could go back and have a pep talk with my 4 yr. old self would I..nah. My love for performance arts grew naturally on its own later. By 2nd grade I was in love with theater, film, literature and dance. Sometimes would wonder where I would be if I would have continued to be formally trained from 4 into teens. But 30 years later I have danced, acted and sang in front hundreds. I’ve done commercials, I taken the mic in front of hundreds on more occasions than I can count. By age 7 I was a complete ham in front of the camera. LOL. Being forced into continuing something that I was petrified of may have changed all of that.

    As for the series, yes, I would so do it! It’s like a journal on film. You can literally watch your evolution. You can be reminded of junk you don’t want to do again. You can be inspired by your triumphs all over again. On the flip side it could become a prison….full of woulda, shoulda couldas. As for time travel..I would def. help myself with relationships. Oh the things I would tell myself..LOL. Great article!!!!

    • eazytaughtu
      July 9, 2012

      As a 4 year-old you behaved in a way that was beneficial to your well-being. If you hadn’t dropped out, eventually you would’ve played with that hula hoop. I have only one similar regret. As an undergraduate English major I had an opportunity to study abroad at Oxford University in England. I chose not to pursue it because I simply wasn’t ready. However, I often wondered what I could have gained from such an experience. I don’t think I would need to view my life in a documentary format to understand the sentiment. I am however fascinated that reality TV stars ( especially the trashy ones) all say that seeing your authentic self on film is a great mirror.

    • Lisa Lingani
      July 9, 2012

      Omg Flashback..I remember going to your practices and recitals.. i believe the school was on tenn ave.. wow i totally forgot that moment in time 🙂

    • PopExcavators
      July 9, 2012

      Haha! Thanks for sharing. Hearing your story got me thinking about our parents’ role in all of this. Do you think your parents were right in letting you quit or should they have pushed you to continue?

      • Nicole
        July 9, 2012

        Nope. I think it would have messed me up and I would have ended up hating dance and all things performance related. Later I was afraid to start band and Mom refused to let me quit. Good call. Good parents pick and choose their battles with wisdom. Allowing kids to have some choices and freedom sets the foundation for a leader later. Just like making kids clean their plates often leads to obesity/overeating in adulthood , not allowing them to have some choices leads them to become adults that trouble taking the lead and making decisions for themselves later.

  2. Cece peniston
    July 9, 2012

    Yes i agree….. If i knew now what i knew then i think i would be in a much different space… I look back at my 10-13yr old self and say what was my problem…. Lol

    • PopExcavators
      July 9, 2012

      Thanks for your comment. Anything specific you would tell your 10-13 yr old self that you wouldn’t mind sharing? I think we can learn from each other’s experiences.

  3. Lisa Lingani
    July 9, 2012

    I remember being in the 4th grade and having to run around with my brother..due to my parents work schedule.. so he was like a babysitter to me and a boss, bully,and brother lol. My brother and I attended Richmond Elem with our cousin Leon, and boy did we have fun,,like the three musketeers.. I wanted to be like them and when they went out and made the boys basketball team.. I tried out for the girls team and to my disappointment..there wasn’t enough girls so they cancelled the team.. I remember crying because I wanted to play bball like my brother and cousin.. you know the three musketeers.. So instead of letting that disappoint me..I went out for the boys team and I made it and was a good player.. because my brother had taught me some skills and we worked hard on becoming the best. I remember in one game against So.chas I came up against their star player and i brought the ball down the court and passe dit off to leon..who shocked me by passing it back.. I shot that ball from the free throw line and swoosh, I dotted his eye and his father wasn’t happy!! What a girl just dotted your son’s eye after all that smack he was talking.. I was on cloud nine and from there i played elem/Jr high/High school and played 3 year of AAU ball and evern went out for WVSU.. My love for bball soon dwindled and i became interested in helping people and making my money.. studying and handling business.. so i never let my desire of playing basketball be deferred due to a lack of interest in a girls team..I took the high road and make it on the boys team whoot whoot…I did it:)

    • PopExcavators
      July 9, 2012

      What an inspiring story! Thanks for sharing. Do you have any regrets from childhood? Things that you almost pursued but didn’t?

  4. Nadia
    July 9, 2012

    As a child, I had athletic ability, but I was afraid to compete because I did not want to lose! But the loss ocurred in that I did not develop those skills or even move much beyond the hula hoop even as an adult. The pros for participating in the ups documentary are that you have the film of yourself at various ages and you can learn from past behaviors and have a positive impact on future choices.I am still in a hula hoop with my job because I opt to remain with what seems secure than to take on or look for more fulfilling opportunities.

    • hindsight2020
      July 9, 2012

      I would tell my younger self to just go for it…do your best…don’t be afraid to try.

    • PopExcavators
      July 9, 2012

      Thanks for sharing. What will it take for you to step out of the hula hoop?

      • Nadia
        July 12, 2012

        a safety net…

      • PopExcavators
        July 12, 2012

        Take the risk.

  5. Bethany Marcacci
    July 10, 2012

    I don’t know about sharing my childhood, but I will share how proud I am of you Ryan 🙂

  6. organicchurchgaJim
    July 11, 2012

    Ryan- What a great blog. I don’t think I would go back and tell my younger past self a thing. If I have learned anything its that most if not everything is better experienced in the moment. Some of my experiences have taken years to unpack and understand but it has all been worth it to know Christ in you and other Saints as well.

    • PopExcavators
      July 11, 2012

      Thanks for reading Jim. One lesson I’m learning is to live in the moment. It’s not as easy as it sounds! Thanks for commenting.

  7. Trevor Honeycutt
    July 11, 2012

    3 of the biggest lessons that I glean from looking back over my childhood are:

    1) It takes Christ to hold a marriage and family together, and make it healthy & fruitful place. >>> From experiencing multi-year trauma over my parents nuclear-strength divorce and fighting: including many nasty court battles over custody, private investigators following each other to find dirt, and my dad chartering a private plane and flying from Alabama to Florida to kidnap my sister and I, and take us back to his house.

    1b) Forgiveness is the ONLY doorway to freedom from past relational pain.

    2) No secret life. To be healthy and strong, we must have some folks to whom we are intimately known. >>> From experiencing negative consequences in my adult life from hiding and numbing-out my childhood pains.

    3) Be very careful about who you choose as friends, especially in the teen years. >>> From realizing the catalyst to my 10 year exit onto the road of extreme alcohol and drug abuse was my best friend from middle school and high school; whose parents were alcoholics.

    There have been just as many highs as lows, but this topic seemed to focus on wisdom gleaned from tough times.

    Also, I wouldn’t change anything about my positives or negatives, bcs these have all been the classrooms where the Lord has taught me the things that He had for me learn in order to be productive in my assignments in His kingdom.

    • PopExcavators
      July 11, 2012

      Trevor every time you speak I feel like getting out a notepad and writing every word you say. Thank you for being open enough to learn from your past so that all of us can as well. I appreciate you man!

  8. Heather Proctor
    July 11, 2012

    I would have told my younger self not to give up so easily, that the bullies were lying and that I was pretty decent at sports. I also would have begged a lot more for dance lessons. 🙂

  9. TriLamJae
    July 12, 2012

    I would tell my younger self to live. To not be afraid to take as many chances as you want. To not be afraid to disappoint people, in particular yourself. I’d tell her to live her take chances and fail often and whatever you do finish college the first time. I’d tell her to learn to dance, to fall in love more, and to not be afraid to experience everything you want to. I’d tell her to be the best Reya Gaines ever. No one can be better at being Reya than her so why not set the bar high? I’d tell her it’s okay to be pretty, smart, and good at a ton of things. It’s not her fault God made her talented, but it’s criminal if she doesn’t at least attempt to use every talent she can. I’d tell her that people will find her odd and that’s okay because the people that will think she’s cool make it worth it. Finally I’d tell her how much I love her and I’m glad I get to be her, and don’t forget what I said about maxing life out and really living and experiencing life.

  10. Lisa Heath
    July 13, 2012

    I think that there are circumstances and people who can lead you to change. However, someone could look at my life right now and tell me the things that they think should change but unless I am in agreement, it probably won’t change. I may look back at this point in my life later on and think, “why was I like that?” but ultimately this is who I am. There are plenty of things that I wish I did differently in the past but I wouldn’t be who I am now without it. I think that we should try to learn from our experiences to become better people instead of wishing we could change the things we can’t. Hope you are happy Ryan….this is my first post! 🙂

  11. DH
    July 28, 2012

    You are one of my true heroes, Ryan Chavez! I loved your story, although it made me sad and I just wanted to give you a hug. It also made me think back to moments in my own life, you know, those hula hoop moments. Looking back, I see times when I didn’t do something I now wish I had. I would have more adventures, take more risks, backpack Europe, and not take life too seriously.

    You are such a gift because you are a catalyst for positive changes in others. So … Maybe it’s not to late to take some risks . . . What do you think?

    • PopExcavators
      July 28, 2012

      Thanks so much for the kind words! It’s never too late to take risks. Go do whatever you want. Make plans to backpack Europe. Show me pictures.

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This entry was posted on July 9, 2012 by in Lives, Reel and tagged , , , .
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