Before Age 55

As List Your Life was percolating in my mind, I heard a very important piece of advice: Everyone should write their stories before age 55. It was a tremendous jolt to my thinking. Ralph Fletcher had long been influential on my teaching practice with his straightforward approach to writing with students - he is all about making it accessible and fun. This particular sentiment was a key to motivating me to write. With his words, the project began to take shape.

I thought about my grandmother who had recently passed away, and I wished I knew more of her memories - I immediately knew that I'd missed an opportunity. I thought of my grandparents who'd been gone a long time, and I thought of how much I would have liked to have known about when they were kids, travels, their proudest moments, stories about my parents - any old thing from their lives.

Age 55. Of course, I thought of my parents. At that time, they were 68 and 63, and I realized that I knew so much about them, but there were so many things still to learn. Through the lens as their little girl, the daughter they raised, I wondered about them beyond their position as parents. What of their life aside from me, my brother, our children? I distinctly remember dwelling on that side of things for a long while and growing more curious about their most important memories.

But then I was really struck: What about ME? I have a hard time realizing my age sometimes. I get stuck in the daughter phase, that role of my life, and I forget I'm in my 40's! Age 55 is surprisingly close. That thought launched me forward into this writing project. A sense of responsibility fell over me as I thought of my own sons - I wanted to share my memories.

Fifty-five years old is a good point in life. Memories are fresh, health is probably pretty good, kids are likely grown (or getting there), and you have enough wisdom to know what's behind you along with a sense of what's to come. That other side of 55 is a bit intimidating, and getting the words on the page while life is relatively smooth makes sense.

I knew that I couldn't ask anyone to share their stories if I didn't have the nerve to tell my own. This advice, to write before 55, propelled me forward to develop a format that would work for others to collect and share their stories. Thus, a journal of lists to make memory-collecting a little easier.

Photo by Edda Pacifico
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