Writing a Life Story – the Story of YOU!
Have you ever wondered about writing a life story about yourself? No, I’m not talking about some fancy memoir that gets professionally published for the whole world to read. I’m talking about the personal record of a life well-lived that you leave for your posterity.
Now, I know that writing your life story is probably not the top thing on your list to accomplish today but let me give you some food for thought.
For years, I’ve given writing a life story nothing more than a passing thought – something to the effect of: “Oh, I ought to do that someday.” Something that I have learned over the years is that “some-day” is not a day of the week and usually never arrives!
All the major “W’s” – you know, what, when, why, where, how, who – have plagued me about this subject for many years. (That sounds like a good, old-fashioned mystery to me. So let’s go about it in a “whodunnit” sort of way.)
What is a Life Story?
Contrary to what you might think, a life story is not a boring dissertation of what you ate during the day and where you went on vacation every year of your life. Honestly, a lot of people think that your life story is a collection of dates and places.
Here are a few definitions from some online dictionaries:
TheFreeDictionary.com – Noun. Life Story – an account of the series of events making up a person’s life.
YourDictionary.com – Noun. Life Story –
- An account of an individual’s life
- (by extension) A long detailed monologue to someone
STOP!! (cue the sound of a needle scratching across a vinyl record)
Please don’t limit your thinking to the definitions above! Yikes! YOUR life story can be so much more and so much more important to your family (and even friends) than those sterile textbook definitions.
So, exactly what IS a life story? Well, by MY definition: Noun. Life Story – Your life story is the legacy that you leave behind that teaches and inspires those who will follow.
Now, don’t let that intimidate you. Teaching and inspiring people can be as easy as just talking about what life has taught you. Just talking. . . See? Not so intimidating. So writing a life story is simply to gather up those stories of your life that can help others.
Who Should Write a Life Story?
This one is easy. . .anyone who has lived! I can’t tell you how many of my ancestors that I wish had left me some insight into their lives. Let me share just one instance with you:
I loved my grandmother – my father’s mother. She was a huge influence in my life. My grandma lived with us in a studio apartment behind our home from the time I was 6 years old. She was there for me every day after school. She and I would talk and share about our day. (Although, her day often consisted of the goings-on of her favorite soap opera characters – ha ha!) We even shared our best secrets with each other.
When I was a teenager, I got myself into some trouble through a bit of rebellion – I know, gasp! (Don’t judge!) It was a hard time, and I didn’t want to face my grandmother as I just KNEW she would be so disappointed in me. Much to my surprise, she was quite oddly supportive, but she passed away soon after my ordeal began.
Shortly after that, I discovered that she had gone through the exact same thing I was going through!! Who knew? Why didn’t she tell me? Did she not think it was important enough to talk about? Oh, how I longed to talk to her and hear how she got through the bad days and climbing back into the good graces of her parents (or IF she ever did). I needed her strength and insight! I needed her stories!! It would have been such a Godsend if she had kept a journal or written her life story.
I guess the point I’m trying to make is that even though we might think that our lives are not important or exciting, you never know when someone might need your strength or your insight to get them through a tough time. You never know when they might need YOUR story.
Why Should I Write a Life Story?
This question walks hand-in-hand with the last one. You should write down the things that have changed you – the things that have made you who you are. Chances are that you have children or grandchildren that didn’t know you when you were younger. They may not have seen the transformation, only the person you’ve become.
The reverse of the story above came from my mother’s mother. That grandma was always a bit stand-offish. She was kind of negative and always seemed a bit put off by life. So consequently, I never was close to her. She was the grandma I would only see on holidays and get a birthday card from once a year. But. . .she did leave her story for us! I was able to read it just a couple of years ago.
What did I learn? That grandma had quite the life! And I began to understand. . .
She was given away to relatives when she was young after her mother died in the influenza epidemic of 1919. She had a rough upbringing. Oh yes, she was loved, but as an only child she was launched into a world of grownups and grown-up thinking at a young age. Plus she had to work hard doing all the housework and cooking since her mother worked outside their home. She suffered from Rheumatic Fever when she was just 9 and spent a year in bed!! (Can you just imagine??)
When Grandma got a bit older, she was forced to go to work and fend for herself still at a very young age. She was even required to pay room and board to her parents as a teenager for the sofa that she slept on. She didn’t even have her own room! And the story continues. . .
So, how did her story help me?? Well, for one, I began to see my own troubles as a child in a much better light. But, I think the biggest thing that I learned was why she was the way she was. I felt compassion for the grandmother that I was never able to get close to or come to know very well. In addition, it explained a whole lot about my own mother and the reasons why she did (and still does) the things she does.
Oh, and as a side note. . .I now understand a little more about myself and just how many things are hard-wired into our DNA!!
Here’s an Added Bonus to the Why. . .
Part of the WHY is that writing down your life story and how your experiences have helped you become who you are today is for you to be able to evaluate your life right now. Look at it as a bit of a measuring stick.
Take a good hard look at what has brought you here and if you don’t like what you see. . .change it! In the past decade, I have written down many things that have made me realize that I was not where I wanted to be in life. So, I made a little (well, more than a little) pivot. I wanted to leave a different, better legacy to my children and grandchildren. After all, a little change never hurt anyone anyway.
When Should I Write My Life Story?
Well, you know what they say: The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. . .But the next best time is NOW!
We never know how much time we have on this planet. Our days are numbered, and we just don’t know what that number is. It’s never too early to begin writing down some of the experiences that have shaped who you have become so far.
In my grandmother’s case, she began just writing stories in a notebook after her second husband died. I believe she was only in her 70’s at that point. However, even though she lived to be 93, the last several years of her life were spent in the fog of Dementia. And during the last 4 years of her life, she completely checked out. She couldn’t have recorded anything for us – written or even video.
How Can I Write/Record My Life Story?
That brings us to how to do record your life story. Luckily, we live in a wonderful day and age where recording things are a breeze! Here are some of the ways that you can leave your story for posterity:
- A written record – notebooks, journals, collection of stories, etc. – typed or hand-written
- Audio record – This is great because it shares your voice as well as the stories
- Video record – This one also captures your face and body language.
- Picture record – My mother is the queen of putting pictures into photo albums! I can see most of her life unfold in those albums. . .although, some hand-written notes about the pics would be nice.
I’m sure there are other options that you can think of. The idea is to get it down for others to see and/or hear.
Where Should I Record My Life Story?
Again, maybe a bit redundant, but. . .EVERYWHERE! When I say everywhere, I mean to have it in more than one place! Fires happen. Computers crash. And files become corrupted. Make more than one copy of what you are doing.
One really great resource for this is FamilySearch.org. You can create a free account and upload pictures, audio, documents, stories, and photos to their “Memories” section of your profile. They even have an app that lets you take pics or records audio for immediate upload to your account. Don’t worry! It’s private, but your family will be able to find it if something should happen to you.
Why Am I So Passionate About Writing a Life Story?
I guess I’m so passionate about writing a life story because a few years ago, I lost one of the greatest forces for good in my life. For better or worse, he is the voice in my head.
When my father passed away, I felt like I lost the only person in life who I could really lean on. My father had an incredible life! Every day for him was a gift since he should have never even survived birth! I love the legacy that he left with a life well-lived, but I want to know what made him the man that I remember. . .and why things changed as he got older. There are some great mysteries in his life.
One Little Thing That You Can Do To Get Started
So why not start today! Here’s a little win for you: Take just 5 minutes out of every day and write down 2 or 3 things you are grateful for and why. That will help you not only start to record something for posterity but will give you a great perspective on today!
Cookies & Milk for Everyone!