This Is Your Life

Who is telling your story? Take a minute to think before you respond. It’s so easy to get caught up in the expectations of others that we often lose track of our own narrative, and after time it’s so buried beneath the voices of others that we need a team of archeologists to sift through several layers to find traces of our original thoughts.

It’s a basic question of ownership. Anna Quindlen describes it as “custody of your life” in her 2000 book,  ‘A Short Guide to a Happy Life’:

“When you leave college, there are thousands of people out there with the same degree you have; when you get a job, there will be thousands of people doing what you want to do for a living.

But you are the only person alive who has sole custody of your life. Your particular life. Your entire life. Not just your life at a desk, or your life on the bus, or in the car, or at the computer. Not just the life of your mind, but the life of your heart. Not just your bank account, but your soul.”

At the beginning of a freshman seminar each fall I gave each student a simple black lined Moleskine notebook. The idea was that they would ‘write’ their life in ‘real time’, scribbling snippets of their new adventure in college and hopefully initiate a practice that  would catalog their days long after commencement. I did not want this to be an electronic record, but life captured in the written word with pen and paper with time for reflection.

There was no expectation tied to the gift of the notebook, and I’m not sure how many students continued the practice of keeping a journal after the first few weeks. What I do know, is that keeping a written account of our days allows us to return and read our story as it evolves. If we have captured our hopes and dreams on paper, we can watch them emerge over time and even pinpoint when outside influences begin to redirect our path. And that awareness will inform our decisions.

You are the only person who can write your ‘true’ story. Keeping a journal, writing your life in real time, is one way to claim ownership of your career and your life.






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