Well, if you think about it, you are the only one who really knows the real you. Parents, siblings, friends and your spouse only know parts of your life. Also, if you don’t take the time to record your own history, then it’s up to others to piece together the parts of your life after you’re gone—which may or may not be accurate. If you’ve ever tried to research your family history, you know how much easier it is to find out information on those ancestors who wrote details in journals, left labeled pictures or certificates, than those who only left a name or not even that!
Here are a few ideas and exercises you can do right now to get started on recording your history! I recommend doing this in a word processing document and writing a basic outline, then as time permits you can go in and add more details, but you can do it any way you’re comfortable with.
Step 1: Start with the now. Simply jot down what is going on in your life right now: where you live, marital status, children/grandchildren, your job(s), community/church activities you participate in, etc.
Step 2: Record major life changes. Note the dates of the important events in your life: birth, graduation(s), church/military service, marriage, birth of children, jobs, moving, etc. These should be things that you know the date of (or at least a month and year). Try to put everything in chronological order as you write it down.
Step 3: Fill in the gaps. After you’ve done the first two steps, you can start to fill in the gaps. Write more about each item you’ve recorded. Talk about your graduation day, or a funny story from your military or church service. Write the details of your wedding day, or your memories of your child’s birth. Really whatever you want to embellish on! And remember, you don’t have to do this all at once either. Pick one thing each day, like your wedding engagement, or a glimpse of your first year of college. Take 10 minutes and write the details!
If you are a more hands-on person, here are a couple of fun ways to record your life:
Timeline: Grab a large sheet of paper (or tape two together); draw a horizontal line across it. Start on the left and add a small vertical dash, above which you will write “born” and the date. At the other end of the line, write “today” and the date above a small dash. Now you just need to add more small dashes to the line to indicate some of the major events of your life (see step 2 above for ideas). If you’re short on time, just work on it for 5 minutes a day until you’re sure you’ve filled it in. And if you don’t know an exact date, you can just put a year, or “around ___ years old”. You can add as much detail as you want to each dash as well—like, “Born to John and Jane Doe on Jan. 15, 1979 in Austin, Texas”. (See the “Once Upon a Time” challenge for more details.)
Map: Draw a simple map of a place you lived as childhood, a college apartment or campus, or even your current residence or workplace. Don’t forget the outside too! Then add simple notes to the map about memories you have in certain areas. These will be great prompts for stories when you decide to write a more in-depth personal history, and if you don’t get that done, then at least you have something recorded!
Here is an example of a map I drew of the house I lived in until I was 10. I made the house a different color than the map to make it stand out. I also used a different color to write little memories of things I remembered about different things that happened in the different places. The map is not perfect and certainly not to scale, but it’s not really the map that matters, it’s the jogging of memories that matters! (See the “A Long Time Ago” challenge to see how I used this map.)
Pin It So now that you have some ideas of how to record your own history, (see ways to overcome roadblocks here) I challenge you to set aside some time and start recording some information about you! No excuses now, right?