- No one else can write a story about your life as accurately as you can. You know yourself better than anyone else. For example, family members probably know when you were born and married, and where you lived and worked. But unless they directly ask you, they will have no idea what your childhood was like or what you were thinking during your first job interview.
- Reflection often brings better understanding of past experiences. Celebrate your accomplishments, but discuss the difficult aspects of your life as well. When we are in the middle of a difficult situation, we’re often in survival mode – focusing on how to get through the ordeal. It’s only afterward, sometimes years later, that we come to understand the meaning of the situation and how we grew from the experience. In addition, reminiscence is a growing trend that in some cases can improve cognitive functioning, reduce depression and increase self-esteem.
- It’s a way to impart your morals, values, hopes and dreams to future generations. Facts are important and serve a purpose, but being willing to go beyond the basics to share your advice and beliefs will impact others in a much more meaningful way. Be honest – wouldn’t it be nice to know that future generations will get to know you as a person, rather than just another name on the family tree or some face in a photo album?
- You have a unique connection to the past. Social norms, geographical locations and popular trends helped to shape your life. This is where photos, letters, memorabilia, recipes, awards and more turn your story into a one-of-a-kind historical artifact.
- You can become the link to the past for family members who are now deceased. Even though it may be too late to obtain a first-person interview with your great-grandmother, you can document your own memories of her and ask other family members to share their recollections of what she was like.
Let’s face it: Life is chaotic and seems to move at warp speed. Every day we’re faced with myriad decisions, countless things to check off our to-do lists, work and family responsibilities … the list goes on. We fill our days to overflowing in a perpetual cycle. Rarely do we take the time to document our discoveries, joys, and challenges.
Although there are some who manage to carve out time to maintain a daily journal, and some who write about their travels, few sift through their volumes of notebooks to pinpoint strategic moments that helped to shape their lives and write about the lessons that they have learned. Yet this is what enables us to not only build our own character, but to also mentor and encourage those closest to us – even after we’re gone.
As a personal historian, I am privileged to gain access to the precious memories of my clients. One client in particular recognized the importance of documenting his story. He contacted me during the end stages of his battle with cancer. As with all of my clients, I met with him in the comfort of his home. As we sat in his office – he reclining in his La-Z-Boy and I seated in his leather armchair – he recounted his childhood in vivid detail. All I had to do was attentively listen and ask an occasional question for clarification. Remembering certain events and speaking of beloved people brought occasional tears to his eyes, and many times he would stop and say, “You know? I’ve never told my children about that.”
In fact, he had never told his children much at all about his life before their births. His adult life had revolved around providing for his family, and although he had been a very active father figure – coaching the children’s soccer teams and taking family vacations – he had never shared the lessons from his past. When he contacted me, he realized the importance of documenting his childhood and young adult life for his children and grandchildren. Unfortunately, he passed away before he was able to share all that he had intended to document. But his children are very grateful to now possess a book that contains a part of their father that they never knew before.
Don’t let the same tragedy happen to your personal history. Beginning your life story is as simple as selecting one major life event and writing about it. No matter how small or large the end result, your loved ones will cherish it.
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Here’s what people are saying:
“It is the rare octogenarian who reflects on his life with clarity, tenderness, and candor, yet Charles Johnston manages this with ease.” Dina Greenberg
“This is the story of a true ‘change agent.’ Charles Johnston’s riveting account of his personal and professional experiences makes you eager to learn more.”
Dalene Bickel is a professional ghostwriter and manuscript editor who works with life story writers and nonfiction authors of all levels.
What My Clients Say:
I want to thank you for the smooth process you provided in the publishing of my father’s memoirs. Your patience and prompt responses with my questions were invaluable. Having had no experience, I felt I could trust and rely on your expertise, and we were thrilled with the final product!