By Alec Taylor.
Recording your life story - your feelings and philosophy, your dreams and your lessons learnt, your personal contribution to life on this planet – requires a dedicated act of ‘journalling’….by you.
Why Leave it to Others?
There are many persons and entities recording our lives, online and offline. We are a statistic if nothing else. We have an educational record, a medical record, a CV. But, without us taking action on our own behalf, this is what will remain of us. This is what – in advanced age with a less reliable memory – we will turn to, to piece our earlier life together.
A Diary is Not Enough
A calendar of meetings attended, both professional and private, is useful. It represents the bare bones of a lived life, but no more than that. Your experience of life is not a chronology of events alone.
You had feelings when you celebrated a birthday or buried a family member or friend. Your thinking and planning were influenced by these happenings.
In Vision, On Audio, In Words, We Exist.
From the day we were born, others took endless pictures of us, ‘shot’ us on video. We were written about before we wrote words ourselves and started to describe our reactions and feelings, to tell stories. Our ‘media’ self has become a reality whether we like it or not. All that before we got started on Social Media.
Too Late, Too Late
Life’s uncertainty means we need to get on with it, to becoming the producer/director/scriptwriter of our own life story. And not just the bit that’s gone by, but the bit that’s up ahead as well. ‘Journalling’ is just as much about planning as reminiscing. It’s about aspirations as much as memoirs.
How to Get Started.
My personal journal is still a handwritten one. It will probably stay that way. It’s a bit of a scrapbook, too. I stick or staple drawings on restaurant serviettes, or an opera ticket, or family photos into it.
So, choose the medium that suits you. You can also type it, or dictate it (audio or video) on your phone. The main thing is to catch your thoughts and feelings, your plans and visions, starting NOW.
‘Private and Confidential'
Until you decide otherwise, everything you ‘lay down’ is your private property. So, separating this material from the rest of your files is no easy matter. You would be wise to store it with the utmost care in a special file, with its own cyber security. In my case, the notebooks are placed when they’re full in an old briefcase which has a coded locking-system.
Storing the Stories.
This is the difficult bit. Where to store the computer files, the notebooks? In the cellar, in the attic, with a parent or a friend? Probably the latter, meaning ‘offsite’. This is a personal decision.
Triggering Each Entry, Including the Very First One.
Personally, I use an interlocutor I simply call ‘Friend’. He/she asks me a question and I answer it. A simple example would be: “How did this last week go?” or “How are you going to deal with the current crisis?” or “What are your goals for the rest of this year?”
Deep Emotional Stuff.
Some people say it helps to write a letter to your parents, or a valued friend/ mentor….and then reply to it on their behalf, talking back to yourself, so to speak. I hold the view that it’s best to be as frank as possible, but to bear in mind that those near and dear to you may one day read the entry. This is a fine decision, and it’s worth giving it thought.
Business and Family Plans.
For me there is no restriction on what areas of life we include in our ‘journal’. Maybe I’d draw the line personally at spreadsheets, but a bit of ‘back-of-the-envelope’ business planning could be included. The key is to plan forwards as well as to record backwards.
You Owe it to Yourself…and Future Generations
Whatever way you look at it, we’re talking about social history. About adding to the record. Does anyone really care? Yes, they do. The extraordinary lives of ordinary people is what we’re talking about. Do your bit: for family and friends first and foremost….but for posterity, too.