Your Life Story – what can you learn from it?
By Duane Hewitt
Humankind has been telling stories since there was language. It’s through storytelling that we learn about ourselves. Whether by poem, novel, fable, or tales shared around the campfire, it’s by such discourse that we explore our history, nature, and myths. Image is brought to life. We delve into self-exploration and experience personal growth. Narratives enable us to learn from a multitude of authors and orators, including ourselves. Our personal stories are no different.
Told by us, the most qualified of storytellers, our life story reveals a collection of dramas, memories, moods, and characters that are woven together in a complex fabric that is often not of our own making. In writing an autobiography we discover because we see from a new vantage point. We remember that which was thought forgotten. We find renewed emotion. People and events take on a dance of order within the chaos. What may have seemed like a life of rambling, unanswered questions develops direction and meaning. Frequently enough, a theme or series of themes become clear. We gain new perspective. We become gods of our fates and slaves to those gods. Yet we are one with every aspect of the tale.
Countless great stories are still waiting to be told. Through stories, there is a sharing between reader and author. We become the story and every aspect within it. From the heights scaled by a noble hero to the deception and ill will of a despicable villain, we are one with the entire breadth of the tale and all it involves. A peaceful meadow becomes us as much as the sweep of time’s arrow. We associate, we empathize, and thus we learn and grow.
Try this exercise. There is no time limit or grades to be had. You can edit and alter as you like, just as long as you feel it is accurate for you. All you have to do is write about your life. Begin with your first memory or start with your strongest memory. You can’t go wrong. No matter what you write, it will evolve in the way that’s right for you.
Observe what it tells you. See what you remember and discover along the way. Pay attention to mood. Pay attention to circumstances that impacted you. Have fun with it. You may find that key events, people, and emotions take on a new perspective. Whether well-ordered or seemingly chaotic, there is design. There is also room for new growth, both in the parts as yet unwritten as well as for what has already transpired.
Don’t judge yourself too harshly. Remember, for each of us, our autobiography is one of the most significant of stories. If you develop any self-doubts about the life you are documenting, keep this in mind: In a world of over seven billion people and counting, no one can live your life but you, and no one person other than you can judge that life. That’s why it’s such a great story, because the story is yours.
Life encompasses much. It’s full of feeling and experience. From cradle to grave we undergo hardship and struggle, peace and joy, ruin and growth. We develop knowledge, wisdom, temperance, insight, humor and humility. We learn. Sometimes we are the victor and sometimes we are the victim. Our subject matter and circumstances are very different from another’s, but we are not that other person; we are us, the unique individual who is owner to the story. And we are always in the process of writing our life story.
In writing an autobiography, we become more acutely aware of our search for meaning. Perhaps we seek resolution to unanswered questions. Certainly, we hope for insight. Perspective helps us accomplish this. So keep this in mind: In telling your story, particularly if you feel like you’re hanging by your fingertips over a precipice, try to hang on. Yours might just be the story that inspires someone else to keep going and make it to the summit.
And therein is one great purpose for all those troubling, unanswered questions through which we live.
Copyright 1999-2017 Duane Hewitt. All rights reserved.