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The Memoir Tool

from It's Never Too Late to Begin Again

THE MEMOIR

One especially heartbreaking sentence I have heard over and over from my newly retired students is, “Oh, my life wasn't that interesting.”
The truth is that every life is fascinating. And when we are willing to look at, and thus honor the life we have led, we inevitably bring ourselves to a place of both power and self-appreciation.
If it sounds like magic, it is.
The Memoir is a weekly exercise that builds upon itself. You will divide your life into sections; as a rule of thumb, divide your age by twelve, and this is the number of years you will cover each week. By answering a “jot list” of questions each week, you will trigger vivid memories, discover lost dreams, and find unexpected healing and clarity. Don’t worry— you aren’t required to write a magnum opus of your life, unless of course you want to. Everyone’s memoir will be different—you may choose simply to answer the questions and list the memories they evoke in standard prose form; alternately, you may find your answers coming out as poems, drawings, or songs. Along the way, you will find dreams you wish to return to, ideas you are ready to discard, wounds you are ready to heal, and most of all, an appreciation for the life you have led. There will be topics you wish to dig into more deeply. I have had students quilt periods of their lives, write songs about lost loves, send letters of gratitude to people whose influence they now appreciate, write short stories based on people they have known or essays on experiences they have had.
As you become open to revisiting your life, your life will become open to revisiting you. I have had students worry that they “don't remember anything”— but this has never turned out to be true. Each week, at the end of the first essay, there will be questions for you to answer. This guided process to gently revisit your life to date— with a good dose of fun and adventure— brings powerful insight. By revisiting— and reigniting— the many deep, complex, creative parts of yourself and your story, you will arrive at a place of clarity and purpose— a “jumping off” point for the rest of your life.

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