Years ago I came across a fascinating bio an author* had written about herself, essentially a life history written in the form of directions to where she was. It outlined for readers not just how to just locate her on the map but invited us to experience what it was like being her up to that point. It’s a brilliant writing exercise (I mean, how often do you get to write in second person?!) and I think it’s also a helpful, compassionate way to describe yourself and understand others.
. . .
Start in New York City at the height of the Miracle Mets world series. See the city from your perch on your dad’s shoulders. Wear a “please do not feed this child” tag that your mom pins to your shirt to prevent people from feeding your invitingly chubby cheeks. Take a detour south to Peru for a couple of years. Be known on the playground as Andy because your hair is cut so short. Sing at the top of your lungs. Jump into outstretched arms, over and over. Fly back to the US and alight in Logan Utah for the rest of growing up.
Smell lilacs. Read unquenchingly, tucked into the crevice of a nubby beige sofa. Feel safe at the feet of the mountains. Go tubing on the creek. Drink ice cold grape soda from that same creek. Go to church in the summer under the trees in the canyon. Sing “When Irish Eyes are Smiling.” Sleep outside in a sleeping bag. Hear repeatedly that your brother is so smart, your sister is so pretty. Wonder what you are. Spend hours in trees, with branches as different rooms in your imaginary house. Sneak in the back of your best friend’s dad’s truck during the night so you can both surprise him at work at the bakery early in the morning. Be thrilled to have a new baby brother. Listen to your younger cousin tell you where babies come from–or rather, how they’re made (dun dun DUN). Grow a big nose, get braces. Be happy when the rest of your face catches up to your nose (somewhat) and the braces come off. Feel the beginnings of a testimony. Feed it.
Reluctantly grow up–be one of the girls who doesn’t eagerly await all the teen girl things like bras, periods, high heels. (Except that one time when you apply a little forbidden eye shadow in the roller rink bathroom with your best friend.) Discover you can write. Chafe a little at always being the responsible one, the oldest child. Make mistakes. Fix them. Debate. Get elected. Play the flute. Be on both sides of unrequited love. Try hard and harder.
Major in English. Ask questions. Fall in like with a series of interesting boys–a drummer, a violinist or two, a pianist, a hockey player–whose mothers adore you. Learn that, disappointingly, this is not necessarily the key to romantic success. Cross paths again with a bass player who had been just a friend. Study abroad in England. Take up running. See Princess Diana four times and Prince Charles once. Exchange increasingly love-filled letters and tapes with the bass player.
Move back, eventually marry bass player + put him through law school. Move from Salt Lake City to Boston to Washington, DC, to Boston. Have three babies. Be amazed at the depth of mama love. Cut sandwiches, hold hands, answer questions. Write, write, write. Ask questions & follow where they lead. Go to graduate school. Finish much later than you planned. Cherish and be cherished. Move forward. Move to Australia. Embrace it all. Write this. You’re here.
. . .
Now it’s your turn! What are the directions to where you are? Write it in your journal or, if you like, feel free to describe or link your response in a comment here.
Note: This writing exercise could also be included as part of several Individual Worth Personal Progress goals (for #4 you could write directions to where you hope to be, for #7 as part of describing your particular gifts)
*now it’s listed as an essay on her site