When I inform people I write about my life in an academic context, they typically reply, “Really? I could never do that. I’m not that exciting.”
It’s disheartening to me. Life writing, for one, has profound benefits, including self-discovery, self-awareness and reflection. Furthermore, that reply reveals a disturbing trend in the culture of defining milestones.
Now I’ve never climbed a mountain. I’ve never experienced a tragedy (thankfully). I’ve never gotten married or even dated anyone. And yet, I have much to write about my life.
Recently, I opened a credit card under my name. I adopted a plant (named Lorenzo). That reply to my question, however, practically eliminates the potential for growth and learning inherent in every life event. The rigidity in the definition of the modern ‘life event’ worries me.
With the ever-popular celeb memoir supplying the grandeur of multi-million-dollar weddings, crumbling public relationships, athletic fame and more, personal milestones feel minute, even unimportant.
Facebook likewise complicates the ‘life event.’ I wrote the following excerpt in a fall 2013 mini-memoir about my identity, and it feels more applicable than ever, particularly as I enter the post-graduate era of ‘Facebook-official’ engagements and marriages.
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Now, a timeline is more than a notion in my mind. More than a guide from one experience to the next. More than a frame of mind, a valiant attempt to comprehend and organize the awkward in my life. Now, a timeline is clickable, likable and alarmingly, deleteable, thanks to Facebook. No longer an entirely individual or private concept, the timeline is public proof of milestones hit — and missed.
Likewise, a blog functions as a type of organizational record that eases the disorder inherent in life, where I can decide which moments to include and exclude, highlight and downplay. Plus, with a quick, clickable tag or category, my world somehow feels more defined, more manageable. The uncertainty I loathe is compressed in a neat, maybe even alliterative tag of one to three words.
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In the tradition of life writing, I can’t provide an astute ‘conclusion.’
Moving forward in my goal to comprehend the ‘life event,’ I merely pledge to abandon the concept of an established ‘milestone.’
I am not behind. I am not ahead. I’m learning not to depend on the cultural definition of the ‘right time.’ It’ll never be the ‘right time.’ It’ll always be my time, though.
While I won’t add an engagement or marriage to my Facebook timeline in the near future like many of my classmates, I’m keeping my plant, Lorenzo, alive. And for me, that’s a pretty big deal.