Why Write

Only You Know the Full Story of Your Life

Signpost against blue sky divided into life sectors: health, work, friends, family, time, career.

You alone know the full story of each decade of your life.

By Maureen Santini © Copyright 2017-2018. All Rights Reserved.

If anyone had asked me to describe my grandmother, I would have said she went to church often, baked brownies when we visited, played piano by ear, and taught me to sew.  In many respects she was a typical grandmother.

Imagine my surprise when, after her death, I learned she had joined a local writers’ group in her sixties and had written several stories, many seemingly autobiographical, describing in detail life in a small lumber mill town.

I can’t say for certain that she never hinted at her writing aspirations during my childhood. If so, the hint didn’t register. The posthumous discovery of her articles was a very pleasant surprise.

You Alone Have the Full Story

Discovering new, amazing facets of those close to us isn’t unusual. Many people may know parts of specific chapters of your life. But if you’re like most people, no one but you has the full story.

Test the theory: ask a few teens to tell you everything they know about their parents as youth. Many will draw a blank.

Re-read my description of my grandmother in the first paragraph. Note that I instinctively described her from my perspective. My description unintentionally amounted to only my chapter of her full story. When she wrote about her life, her perspective was vastly different. This illuminates the problem with leaving your story to others. You are the only one with the complete story.

Begin Writing Your Story Now

There’s no right time to begin writing your life story but the sooner you begin preserving your memories, the more you are likely to recall. It is much easier to add information and memories as time progresses than to recall fading memories.

Middle age is a great time to begin. Encourage friends, siblings, parents and spouse to do the same. In fact, consider starting a life story writing circle.

Whether family members happen to be interested in your life story at any given point in time should not matter. Your life story is a legacy you are bestowing on your family and future generations.

Read more:

https://passdownyourstory.com/your-life-story-is-your-legacy/ ‎

 

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Chapter 1 - Your First Decade/Chapter 1 - Your First Decade

Your First Decade – Ages 0-9

Chalk outline of numbered hopscotch boxes on pavement starting with number one.

Begin your life story at square one – your first decade of life.

By Maureen Santini© Copyright 2018-2019. All Rights Reserved.

Ready to begin writing your life story? Let’s get started. Not sold yet? Consider the reasons why you should write your story.  

Take out a piece of paper, pick up your favorite pen or pencil and let your earliest memories surface. Your first decade covers the time from your birth through age nine. Connect each of these years with a calendar year. The first year would be the year of your birth, such as 1950. Your second year would be 1951 and so forth.

Write what you remember. If memory disappoints, review scrapbooks and consult relatives about events and activities during each year.

Infancy

Begin by writing down everything you know about the day you were born: your full name at birth, the name of the hospital or birth place, the date and time of birth, the city and state, the names of your parents.

Fill in basic blanks: birth weight, color of hair and eyes, birthmarks, nationality, citizenship, parents’ citizenship, birth order, names and ages of siblings, religion, street address and type of residence. Were you were named after anyone?

If you were baptized, record the place, date, and names of your sponsors.

Write down everything you know about your infancy, including general development, physical characteristics, health and personality. Were you average, ahead or behind on most measures of development? When did you begin crawling, walking, talking? Who had the most responsibility for your daily care and upbringing?

Preschool and Kindergarten

If you went to preschool and/or kindergarten, write down as much as you remember. Most children are four, five or six during these years. For each year, write the basics first: name of the school, city and state of the school, names of your teachers and playmates, favorite activities and toys.

Delve into types of events that stand out: family events such as birthdays and holiday celebrations, civic events such as parades, school events such as holiday plays and sports contests. Write about anything you recall such as favorite toys, parties, games, pets, clothes, movies and television programs, hobbies, music, and relationships with siblings, parents, caregivers and others.

Who did you spend most of your time with? What did you spend most of your time doing?  

Grades One through Four

Children typically are six or seven in first grade, seven or eight in second grade, eight or nine in third grade, and nine or 10 in fourth grade. 

For each grade write the name and place of school, name of teacher and favorite classmates, favorite subjects and extracurricular activities. Mention your main activities such as bike riding, skating, playing with dolls, sewing, video games, baking, singing or dancing, drawing, and sports.

Capture as many highlights as you can for each year, such as a family move, a new sibling or a new pet. Did you learn to ride a bike or play a particular game? Did you suddenly realize you were pretty good at baseball or swimming or class work?  

Which areas of study did you particularly like and find relatively easy and which areas did you find difficult? Describe how you got to school – walking, driving, school bus. Mention achievements and challenges.

What was your role at home during this time? Did you help with cooking or other chores? Did you serve as a babysitter for siblings or neighbors? Did you earn an allowance or have a job such as paper route or mowing lawns? Which activities did you enjoy with your mother, your father, your siblings, your grandparents, and other relatives?

Write about careers you envisioned as a young child. Talk especially about activities and people – children and adults – that occupied the majority of your time and interest.

Outside Events

Write about when and how you became aware of national or world events. What triggered your awareness? A relative going off to war? An international crisis? School drills? Elections? If you lived through particularly interesting times, be sure to write down your memories and impressions. Mention any new acquisitions that changed life in your family such as the purchase of a television or car. 

Family Life

Write about your family life during your first decade. How would you describe it? Record your parents’ occupations, the birth of siblings, your relationship with extended family members such as grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. Talk about special events and challenging times.

Recall specific milestones such as a new bicycle, a family trip or a family move to a new location. Describe your family’s traditions and activities on weekends and major holidays, such as Christmas and Easter.

Write about both positive and negative events and influences as honestly as possible. Everyone experiences times of disappointment and tragedy. You may find that going beyond the facts and filling in personal details will give your story depth and authenticity.

Some of you will complete this chapter in short order. Others may take longer. The number of pages you write doesn’t matter at this point. If you recall more details in the days ahead, add to the chapter as memories occur. 

Tell us your thoughts about the process so far. Easier and faster than expected? Start thinking about your second decade, the next chapter.  

Since our mission is to convince as many people as possible to write their life stories, we would be grateful if you would share these posts on social media and with your friends and relatives.  

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Chapter 2 - Your Second Decade/Chapter 2 - Your Second Decade

Your Second Decade – Ages 10-19

Young woman in starting position stance getting ready to run race on a track.

Young woman at the starting line of her adult life.

By Maureen Santini © Copyright 2018-2019. All Rights Reserved.

You’ve just finished writing about your first decade of life. Congratulations on beginning this journey. Let’s keep going.

The second decade of life begins in childhood and ends in adulthood. The ages 10 to 19 are formative ones, spanning middle school, high school and post high school.

The simplest way to cover all this territory is chronological. Divide the decade into specific years and write everything you recall about each year. For instance, if you were born in 1960, you were 10 years old in 1970. Begin there.

Middle School

In most cases, your first decade ended with fourth grade. Begin writing about your second decade with the fifth grade. For each grade, write as much as you recall about relevant topics including:

  • The name of the school, city and state, important teachers, coaches, classmates, events. The type of school – public, private, religious, home.
  • Your home address, city, and state.
  • Your main school activities, class subjects, projects, and interests. Did you like each grade? Why or why not? Do you have specific memories of things that were especially fun, rewarding or challenging?
  • Your main activities outside of school including playmates, home life, religion, games, sports, outdoor activities, television, movies, music, fashion and fads, idols, dreams, challenges. Write in depth about the most important of these and why they were important.
  • Your awareness of current events in your town, state, nation or internationally. Be specific.

High School

Most of us were about 14 years old as freshmen and about 18 or nearly 18 at graduation. For each year of high school, write about the same topics as above:

  • The name of the school, city, and state, and the type of school.
  • Your home residence address, city, and state.
  • Those who had the most influence in your life at the time including teachers, classmates, coaches, family members, friends, and others.
  • Your major interests and activities, trips, sports, class subjects. Which extracurricular activities did you participate in? Describe yourself as a student. Did you like school?
  • Your main interests outside of school including friends, home life, religion, games, television, movies, music, clothes, idols, dreams, challenges. Which new interests did you develop during this time? Which new skills did you learn? What was happening in your family?
  • Your health and preoccupations during this time.
  • Your awareness of current events in your town, state, and nation. Explain why specific events piqued your interest or concern.
  • Most of us began driving around age 16 and became legal adults at age 18. Write about your experiences driving, voting, drinking if applicable, and dealing with peer pressure and family expectations if any. Did you have a job during these years? Did you graduate from high school? If not, why not?

Post High School

After high school you may have gone to college or vocational school, entered the job market, joined the military, traveled or just hung out. Some of you may have married and had children during this time.

What did you do after high school? Write in detail about as many of the following as apply to your life:

  • College
  • Vocational school
  • Military
  • Job / Career
  • Moving away from home for the first time
  • Dating, marriage, and children
  • Travel

For each category, write the basic facts, dates, and addresses: where and when you were in college, vocational school, the military and/or the job market. Write about your areas of study in college, your vocational and/or military training. Write about your first jobs or your first travels.

Do you look back at these days with fondness, regret or neutrality? Why? Talk about the reasons you chose college, vocational school, military training, etc. over other options. Which considerations were paramount?

Write about your private life as well. Were you in a relationship? Did you marry and have children during this decade? 

In addition to the categories above, write about challenges, events or stresses that had a major impact on your life during this decade, including your health and welfare and that of your family and friends.

Now that you’ve jogged your memory, new insights are likely to arise. Keep adding to each chapter as they do.

Get ready to start writing about your third decade

We are eager to hear about your writing experience. Please post your comments on this website and share these posts to encourage others to write their stories.

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Inspiring Quotes

Quotations to Inspire You

Quotation "Your life has purpose" superimposed on purple and yellow sky.

Your voice matters.

“Every death is like the burning of a library.” Alex Haley

“My mother always said that everyone should be required to write an autobiography of their lives.” Diane Keaton

“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” Maya Angelou

“I can shake off everything as I write; my sorrows disappear, my courage is reborn.” Anne Frank

“To live in hearts we leave behind is not to die.” Thomas Campbell

“You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.” Anne Lamott

Michelle Obama said she hopes her autobiography “will inspire others to reflect upon and share their own stories – and the joys and sorrows, all the scars and renewals… ”