A recent post on the Association of Personal Historians (APH) listserv reminded me again of how valuable life story writing is to the person doing the remembering and the writing. As personal historians we often emphasize the importance of leaving a legacy for family and friends – and, certainly, chronicling life stories does that. But, perhaps, just as importantly, the life review that is part of any life story writing provides remarkable gifts, in the here and now, for the writer. If you undertake a concentrated life review, you are likely to gain a greater ability to find continuity amid the apparent chaos and rapid changes of your life. You will also probably garner an appreciation of the resourcefulness you’ve exhibited as you’ve navigated life’s ups and downs. Life review will doubtlessly provide you with a sound understanding of how you came to be where you are in life which, in turn, will provide you with a well founded base upon which to explore alternative directions for the future.
Remembering and sharing our memories is not just about our past lives. It is very much about how we view our present and our future. When we revisit our past, we often come to see things in a different light or from a broader perspective.
My APH colleague, Paula Stahel, was addressing this point when she shared a quote from a soon-to-be-released personal history book entitled “Thriving in the Care of Many Mothers”. In the forward, the author states:
“Occasionally I would tell my children something from my past, but my feeling was that I should not dwell on what happened a long time ago, as the past was irreversible. Rather, I needed to concentrate on the present and try to plan for the future. . .Now I no longer feel that the past should be left well alone, but that it has a place in helping me understand myself today. This retrospection has allowed me to see many past events in a new light, and has helped color how I view myself now, and how I hope to evolve in the future.” -Rosemary Bore