Tag Archives: memoir

Modern culture of the ‘milestone’ limits power of life writing

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.

* * *

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.

* * *

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.

Meet Lorenzo, my plant.

Meet Lorenzo, my plant.

Return to beloved hobby proves the power of leisure

I recently reacquainted myself with a longtime love: reading for fun.

While I appreciate literature whether reading for homework or leisure, there’s a certain thrill in picking up a memoir with the confidence that no essay prompt or pop quiz awaits. In the fall, I’ll complete my English writing degree with a course dedicated to life writing; I deemed David Sedaris’ memoir Naked the ideal choice for renewing my (complicated) bond with the genre.

Already, unapologetic honesty defines the memoir, and though I have little in common with the author, I find myself clinging to the universality of his bizarre tales — all moored on the page with that trademark Sedaris wit.

Even rambling a quick analysis of Naked reveals leisure’s sneaky power. Though I’m reading for relaxation, I automatically engage the more academic, formulaic part of my mind.

And the whole involuntary rambling thing felt productive. Wait, what?

Too often throughout my college career, I’ve felt guilty after taking an hour or two off to watch a movie or delay my homework for an impromptu ping-pong match. After all, that kind of ‘relaxation’ detracted from my ‘career path’ or whatever other jargon I created for an all-purpose guilt trip.

Since taking up leisure reading again, though, I’ve realized hobbies and interests are neither conniving nor determined to invade my life and steal precious time from work.

Rather, they’re opportunities to engage a different, too often dormant part of me. And maybe, in the uncanny haven of an author’s tale about ‘that one time way back when,’ the career-minded, ‘productive’ part of me might discover something valuable — something far beyond the cubicle.