Dividing Your Autobiography Into Life Stages


A few years in the past, Oprah Winfrey carried out a survey through which she requested members what they felt was an important factor to them they usually overwhelmingly responded, “To matter.” That won’t essentially be measurable in scientific phrases, however it might entail offering worth, profit, and enchancment to the world, to make tracks within the snow that point out you have been as soon as right here. One of many methods to each study your life and depart proof of it’s by way of the author-written autobiography.

“An autobiography supplies a singular outlook that helps to ascertain a household id, a basis that may affect the members of that household for ages to return,” explains Patricia Ann Case in her ebook, “How you can Write your Autobiography: Preserving your Household Heritage” (Woodbridge Press Publishing Firm, 1989, p. 10).

“Because the type of writing favored by African-Individuals and different ethnic minorities, autobiography carries ahead a wealthy custom of self-affirmation by way of discovering one’s voice,” Tristine Rainer factors out in her ebook, “Your Life as Story: Writing the New Autobiography” (G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1997, p. 11). “It’s a method of claiming ‘I matter. This life I’ve lived has which means. And since I inform it from my perspective, as a result of I body it, it has the which means I give it.'”

The work can provide innumerable advantages. It permits the writer to establish the muse his personal life stands on and the way it molded him. It could allow him to incorporate those that preceded him and illustrate the variations between their very own, earlier-generation lives and his. It could facilitate the examination of their beliefs, values, and philosophies, all of which can have subtly formed him. And subsequently, it will probably function a mirror into his previous for his personal youngsters.

Like a quilt knitted collectively by the occasions and milestones of his life and the individuals who have been instrumental in it, it will probably allow each them and himself to find out the sample or patterns to it.

Inside these stitches could also be some hidden which means or significance he himself might by no means have seen if he had not undertaken the challenge.

Structured in expository, artistic nonfiction, or story arc literary kind, it will probably reveal a worth larger than the sum of its elements, which themselves can embody skills, passions, obsessions, yearnings, needs, and goals. All might have formed him, offering the motivating core which enabled him to finish his earthly goal.

Famous restoration specialist, the late John Bradshaw, might have summed this up when he mentioned, “I’m me and for this alone I got here.” This can be the last word method an individual “issues.”

Whereas his readers might uncover features about him as an individual and the journey he undertook, the autobiographer himself can do the identical because the phrases he captures enable him to assign which means to them.

As one autobiographer defined, “… I’m filled with anticipation for my journey into the unknown. I’m a protagonist in a world of never-ending dilemmas which include hidden which means that it’s as much as me to find. I’m the artist of my life who takes the uncooked materials given, irrespective of how weird, painful, or disappointing, and provides them form and which means. I’m inside every scene and every chapter of my life, defining my characters by way of the alternatives I make. I’m on my aspect, rooting for myself, performing for myself.” (Rainer, ibid, p. 18)

This text subdivides your life into the seven phases of “Household Basis,” “Your Arrival,” Childhood,” Teenage Years,” “Maturity,” “Center Years,” and “Retirement.” The method facilitates the researching, contemplating, and writing in regards to the vital features which occurred in every.


Remembering, researching, checking out, after which really writing about an individual’s life, which assuredly is characterised by an incalculable variety of experiences and relationships, together with the emotions, feelings, and conclusions they generated, can show a frightening job, particularly with advancing age. The place, the autobiographer might ask himself, do I even start? Like every monumental endeavor, it will probably grow to be extra manageable by subdividing it into elements or sections-in this case, life stages-and then specializing in that specific one earlier than shifting to the following. Even after it has been captured in written kind, it will probably all the time be amended or edited later, if supplementary reminiscences dictate the necessity. A journal or diary supplies a superb reference supply for the challenge.


Whereas the autobiographer could also be unable to withstand the temptation to drag out a chunk of paper and write, “I used to be born on… ,” his persistence might show prudent.

Think about, as an alternative, a stay theater you enter. You current your ticket, are handed a playbill, are proven to your seat, and also you sit down, surveying the set on the stage. The actors haven’t but appeared, however their world already exists, awaiting their arrival. Your world might have begun along with your start, however the world, just like the theater’s set, existed earlier than you, and your personal setting was most likely instrumental in what formed you by way of the place you lived, who your mother and father have been, what languages they spoke, and the way their very own pasts, beliefs, strengths, distortions, and weaknesses molded you into what you finally grew to become. Your autobiography, in no small method, will allow you to look at that.

“All of us come from the previous and kids should know what it was that went into their making,” Pulitzer prize-winning writer Russell Baker as soon as wrote.

In case your mother and father formed you, they have been formed by their very own. You could want to study how your grandparents left a mark that you just later bore. Contemplate the next autobiography passage.

My grandfather’s sturdy work ethic was clearly emblazoned in my father, as if it have been a blood sort that coursed by way of his veins and pumped him into motion. Anybody who rose later than 6:30 a.m. he thought of lazy. Work was nearly “play” for him and he “performed” six days per week. Snowstorms enabled him to point out who the boss was and he all the time conquered them, strolling into the plant the place he labored sooner than his actual bosses. Sometime he would rub this ethic off on me, however I knew that if I resisted, it could have been extra like a collision.

Different early-stage features value exploring are location (nation, metropolis, or rural atmosphere), dwelling (farm, tenement, condo, home, yurt, or palace), and historic interval (World Battle II, the Nice Melancholy, the Chilly Battle, or the know-how age). All formed you, generally in refined methods.

“As you start writing about your life, do not get your self born’ but,” advises Might Borg in her ebook, “Writing your Life: An Straightforward to Comply with Information to Writing an Autobiography” (Cottonwood Press, Inc., 1998, p. 26). “As a substitute, set the scene to your arrival, telling what you understand about your loved ones and your ancestors.”


Though your start indicators your official entry into the world and locations you in your preliminary dwelling atmosphere a issues of days later, it might require a while earlier than ample growth permitted the self-processing and subsequent remembering of it. Due to this fact, it is best to start with the fundamentals-that is, when and the place you have been born, your identify and any associations it has, and milestones, akin to your first birthday and first Christmas. Solely sources like your mother and father and child books can support these duties.

You could want to discover any recollections of assembly and getting acquainted along with your mother and father, major caregivers, grandparents, and any siblings. The place have been you in age order?

Except for caregiver acquaintances, do you recall any emotions and vitality, optimistic or damaging, you related to them? What was the ambiance of your property atmosphere: secure, loving, nurturing, supportive, chaotic, insecure, indignant, or abandoning, and did it fluctuate in accordance with which mum or dad was current?

What sort of tales did your mother and father let you know about themselves and their pasts?

As you crossed the edge from age two to a few, did any pursuits start to disclose themselves that grew to become the preliminary indicators of later-in-life decisions, capabilities, and even careers? Have been you social or did you favor to stay creatively alone? What sort of toys served as your favorites: inventive sorts, akin to portray supplies, video games that required others, building-oriented implements, like plastic instruments and blocks, dolls, or homemaker objects, akin to dollhouses and easy-bake ovens?

How may you characterize your self? Have been you inquisitive, curious, desperate to study, passive, disinterested, or quickly-bored?

Later in life, I used to be all the time fascinated with these in quest of solutions to mysteries-Egyptologists and their research of the pyramids of Giza, archaeologists who unearthed previous civilizations, and explorers who situated buried treasure. Once I was three, I explored my very own world-my house-rummaging by way of each drawer and closet when my mom wasn’t searching for my very own buried treasure.

Was there any discrepancy about what others mentioned about you and the way you actually have been as an individual by way of beliefs and perceptions?

Did you play any household roles, akin to hero, caregiver, mascot, shadow, and jokester? How was your relationship along with your siblings-loving, cooperative, aggressive, clashing, or resentful?

Which mum or dad was most influential, positively or negatively, in your nurture and the encouragement of your early pursuits and goals? Which one supported and which one, if any, squashed them?

Was there anybody, apart from a member of the family, who understood you higher than anybody else and served as a kindred spirit to you? Was there anybody who gave you the emotional and religious help your major caregivers couldn’t?

With this part, as with all others, you could want to determine whether or not your strategy is present-that is, an grownup trying again at his early years-or previous, because the little one penning his reminiscences on the time they occurred. What’s extra vital, nevertheless, is how your early years affected you as a toddler and the way they formed your growth as an grownup.


A toddler subconsciously believes that his dwelling atmosphere and the mother and father or major caregivers who created it are representatives of the world at giant, since he is aware of no apart from his personal. You could want to discover what its normal ambiance was like. What have been your allowances and what have been your restrictions?

What sort of kid have been you-compliant, obedient, comical, a meddler, defiant, or a troublemaker? Who disciplined you? Did you upset the rowboat or calm the waters when others did?

Who was your finest pal? What forms of actions or toys did you share? Have been you an early chief or an early follower?

Recount a typical day at 5, seven, 9, and eleven. What might have induced it to grow to be atypical? You could want to take into account vacation events and any summer time holidays.

Do you could have any secrets and techniques you by no means revealed about your self? Have been there any household secrets and techniques?

College is undoubtedly the middle of any kid’s life. What was yours like? Was it a single-story elementary sort, a single-room college home within the Midwest, an internal metropolis establishment, or a progressive or specialised studying venue? Did you prefer it, find it irresistible, tolerate it, hate it? Have been you academically inclined? Was there any topic for which you had a robust curiosity? Did it, like an mental weathervane, level to any skills or talents that have been later instrumental in your life? Did you take part in extracurricular actions, akin to golf equipment or sports activities? Was there any instructor, pal, tutor, exercise, or side that formed and outlined you at this life stage?

“As you write your memoir, bear in mind these two phrases: info and anecdotes,” advises Borg (ibid, p. 55). “Information will assist your readers perceive the basics-how folks, locations, and occasions formed your life. Information are crucial, however it’s anecdotes that may preserve your readers and entertained. Take into consideration the amusing, uncommon, uncomfortable, triumphant, scary, poignant, ridiculous, and radical moments of your life.”

Contemplate the next childhood reminiscence.

As I propelled the buying cart down the grocery store aisle someday after I was six-years-old, leaving my mom panting to maintain up with my scorching rod car, it slipped and careened ahead with out a human brake, hitting the rear finish of a lady. Embarrassed, I did not know what to say. However that embarrassment was delicate when the lady turned to me, the one accountable for its launch, and I noticed her face take the form of my instructor’s, Mrs. McNulty. That is as a result of it was Mrs. McNulty!

Oh, God, I believed, I did not know what to say and wished my mom would hurry up and rescue me.

“Why, Mrs. McNulty,” I lastly mentioned by way of a stammer. “What are you doing right here? You are not alleged to be right here.”

Rubbing her rear finish, she mentioned, “Why, Jeffery, it was you who launched that missile?”

“Ah, sure, ma’am,” I replied.

“And why do you suppose I should not be right here?”

“Ah,” swallowing, I mentioned, “since you’re a instructor. This can be a grocery store. You are alleged to be in a faculty. You include the constructing, do not you?”

“No,” she mentioned slowly, shaking her head and making me really feel as if she have been about to show an off-premises class. “I am an individual such as you. I stay in a home and store in a retailer.”

“Oh,” I mentioned, now embarrassed about my childhood false impression. “I did not know that.”

“What occurred?” my mom mentioned, arriving on the scene of the accident.

“Nothing,” mentioned my instructor. “Your son clearly has an early curiosity in pace.”

I realized that my teacher-and-school affiliation was the one one I had had of Mrs. McNulty that day and that academics have been individuals who did all the pieces my mother and father did: work, sleep, store, and stay in a home. I puzzled why she hadn’t taught me that in school. However, on reflection, she simply did and that, even when she wasn’t within the college constructing, she was nonetheless a instructor at coronary heart.


Crossing that teenage bridge out of your childhood 13 to your maturity eighteen is awkward and generally painful, as you permit behind what you have been and journey to what you’ll grow to be, maybe realizing for the primary time that you just even have been one thing in any respect. Just like the proverbial sq. peg, you not match within the previous spherical gap, however haven’t but outlined what the brand new one is.

This era is characterised by bodily, emotional, psychological, neurological, and psychological modifications, and pictures, pursuits, and garments that not match.

With whom did you establish at this age? Was there a job mannequin who most affected you? How shortly did you develop in peak? Have been there new-found tutorial pursuits and talents? Did hormonal modifications and companion sights derail your research?

Was there a defining individual, incident, or expertise that cemented your change? Did you lose childhood buddies and undertake teenage ones? How did your property life change, if in any respect? Did your relationships along with your mother and father and siblings take new types?

Did profession paths start to outline themselves? How did early love pursuits change or redefine you?

As you transitioned to early maturity, maybe studying to drive and making use of to schools, did you are feeling you have been prepared for these modifications or did your upbringing hinder the method?

Did you expertise any dwelling abuse, college bullying, rejection? Into what class did you match: the studious nerd, the goof-offs who felt they might by no means make something of themselves, the directionless, the jocks? Did you assume any early employment, no matter how menial it might have been?

“Autobiographic narrative is greater than remembering on paper,” Rainer factors out (op. cit., p. 192). “It’s a second likelihood, an opportunity to get it proper. Not that you just change occasions, not that you do not write about helplessly watching your sister drown with all of the ache and guilt you skilled, however that this time you might be by yourself aspect, even in ache and failure. Now you’ll be able to inform the story with perception and discover the which means with the only expertise inside the context of your entire life. Remembering one’s affected by the angle of acquired knowledge is totally different than merely replaying it.”

Here’s a teenage 12 months autobiography incident.

I discovered it tougher than I believed after I began relationship. Though it was awkward, I could not essentially join with the woman with the identical ease my buddies appeared to. I attempted totally different methods and totally different ladies. Many occasions I simply went by way of the motions.

I actually favored the ladies, however there gave the impression to be a barrier between us. After just a few dates, I could not assist the truth that I all the time discovered some form of battle, one thing we could not agree on. In actual fact, there gave the impression to be no finish to the explanations I could not agree together with her, as if it have been by some means pure to me.

Later in life, I noticed that my mother and father, who often fought in regards to the smallest issues at dwelling, had modeled relationships for me-and I could not relate to anybody except I personally discovered some level of disagreement or argument. I by no means knew how a lot they’d primed my mind for anticipated battle and, if it didn’t materialize, I created it myself, searching for something to disagree about. I lastly realized how influential my mum or dad’s interactions have been on me as I attempted to grow to be an grownup.


Maturity might not essentially be measurable in age, since emotional growth can fluctuate it; nonetheless, in concrete phrases, it might start when the individual both graduates highschool or school, and it definitely constitutes the best proportion of his life.

When, particularly, did it start for you? When did you are feeling able to embrace this life stage and did it or did it not coincide along with your bodily departure out of your home-of-origin? Was this depart one thing you have been prepared for and subsequently thought of a logical transition or an escape? What have been the circumstances that led to it: the must be impartial, to journey, to carry out navy service, to hunt employment? Apart out of your belongings, which values and beliefs did you’re taking? What did you miss or not miss if you lastly left?

Poised on the edge of the world, what have been your hopes, goals, and aspirations about it? Did your upbringing help or suppress them?

Describe your college years-your course of examine, experiences, buddies, and interactions, and the way they led to non-public development and ready you for a profession.

Focus on your first and any subsequent jobs. Have been they logical progressions of your diploma research or did they department into by no means anticipated fields? The place did you’re employed? What have been the required credentials and have been there any employment-related coaching applications? Did you want any particular abilities to carry out your perform?

How fulfilling was it, over and above the financial compensation? Did the job outline you or did you outline the job? Did you accomplish one thing vital by way of it? Did you obtain any citations or awards for it? How did it contribute to your private development and both an in-company development or a brand new firm place?

Integral to most lives are the inevitable love and marriage features. You could want to focus on your relationship life, the way you met “the precise one,” your courtship, wedding ceremony, and your new life collectively. Was it clean or bumpy? Why? What was the connection like? Who was actually in cost or was it an equal partnership?

Have been there any subsequent marriages?

Right here is an instance of an individual assembly his supposed partner.

I do not know if it was astronomy or religion-or perhaps even both-that have been the forces at work that day. However I do know that as I entered the lecture corridor the place my artwork historical past seminar was given, that the planets appeared to align and an influence larger than me directed my consideration to the woman within the third row, as if to say, “That is the one for you.” With cascades of chestnut hair, inexperienced eyes, and a persona that would have been a carbon copy of mine, she, I knew, was proper for me by an intelligence that was superior to my very own.

I sat subsequent to her and he or she started chatting with me, as if she had been ready for me to enter the room, as if she was being directed by the identical power. I knew, proper then and there, that I used to be chatting with my future spouse.

Did you could have any youngsters and what led to your resolution to take action?

“Infants are essential to grown-ups,” in accordance with Eda Le Shan. “A brand new child is like the start of all things-wonder, hope, or dream of prospects.”

What position did parenthood play in your life? Are you able to hint your parenting model to that modeled by your personal mother and father? Was it poor, dysfunctional, or exemplary?

How suitable was it to your partner’s?

What have been your most rewarding, proud, complicated, or terrifying moments as a mum or dad? In case you had a couple of little one, what was his relationship to the others? How did you take care of infractions, punishment, battle, and rewards? How comparable or dissimilar was one little one to the opposite?

What number of of your beliefs, philosophies, and values do you are feeling you instilled in your youngsters and what have been they? Illustrate them. How did every of them add to your life and what, as a mum or dad, did you study from the method?

Lastly, there might have been a darker aspect to both your marriage or to your maturity. Fact, as has typically been mentioned, will set you free by opening the doorways behind which it might have been hidden. In case you want to relate a full and sincere story in your autobiography, this can be the chance to take action, enabling you to disclose the household secrets and techniques of dishonesty, alcoholism, psychological sickness, abuse, and incest, amongst others. Have been these secrets and techniques distinctive to your personal grownup life or have been they unresolved continuations out of your childhood one? How did they’re form or misshape you?

“… There may be increasingly proof that secrets and techniques in a household have long-standing results, even by way of future generations,” wrote Borg (op. cit., p. 90). “Incest, partner abuse, little one abuse, teenage being pregnant, and despair all development to reappear in households, era after era. In actual fact, some psychologists imagine that households that do not acknowledge and take care of their secrets and techniques are doomed to repeat them.”


Due to scientific and medical developments, the present era has an extended life expectancy than the earlier one. Nonetheless, center age begins at about forty for many. When you as soon as crossed the bridge from child- to maturity, you now subconsciously traverse one other, out of your core profession and household life stage to that of your retirement and golden years. Someplace between the 2, you haven’t but ended one interval, however haven’t reached the opposite.

As a result of careers at the moment are typically redirected by firm outsourcing and mergers and human-replacing know-how, are you able to take into account this era a midlife disaster or a midlife reinvention?

Except for potential job losses, there are others on this period-that is, these of your mother and father, who move, and people of your youngsters, who vacate the nest to start lives of their very own. Extra importantly, how have you ever modified by way of actions, philosophies, and objectives because of this? How intently has your life adhered to your authentic imaginative and prescient of it? Have you ever achieved your goals and accomplishments or have they gone askew?

Based mostly upon your expertise, have you ever adjusted the lens by way of which you view others, the world, and life normally?

How have you ever redefined the ideas of affection, marriage, household, equity, justice, equality, and goal?

Provisioned with extra financial sources now that your youngsters have left your home, have you ever carried out something to start a “second maturity”-that is, journey, return to high school, study new abilities take up new hobbies, akin to golf or portray, or write? How, if any, have you ever reinvented your self?

Up till now, has your life been an journey or an ordeal or someplace in-between?

The next might be a middle-years entry into the writer’s autobiography.

I believed that I had grow to be too previous to study, however, after hesitating, I lastly signed up for that sculpting class I had all the time thought of since I used to be an adolescent. I used to be not solely good at this type of inventive expression, and even made some new buddies, however I noticed that there is optimistic vitality in untapped needs, and that it by no means dies till you harness it, even nearly 4 a long time later. On reflection, maybe, that was the best lesson I realized: if the fires of ardour nonetheless burn, you are by no means too previous to cook dinner one thing with them.


Since nobody is in a state of permanence or perfection within the bodily world, your retirement years, which may start between the ages of 60 and 70, could also be marked by losses, significantly of your job, your family members, your independence, your well being, and your bodily and psychological capabilities. Whereas this era might be categorized as some sort of finish, it can be a beginning-of reflection, as you look again at your life and study its goal, occasions, experiences, classes, insights, accomplishments, loves, and fulfillments. What was its goal and did you full it?

How have you ever adjusted to the modifications this part has introduced? What’s your new life-style like?

Regardless of your losses, have been there any features or additions, akin to newfound time and freedom to finish initiatives that will have been on maintain for many of your life, like journey, spending extra time with previous buddies, and taking part in along with your grandchildren?

You could want to write in regards to the endeavors, successes, and qualities of your personal grown youngsters’s lives and the way the muse of confidence, esteem, perception, and even religion you laid throughout their upbringings was instrumental in it.

Is the time period “senior citizen” a stigmatized impediment or a chance for you?

Now that you’ve got traveled a superb portion of your life’s highway, are you able to share any philosophies, truths, insights, or wisdoms regarding it? How a lot have been you in a position to stay loyal to the true you and the way a lot did others dictate who it is best to have been?

“Your work continues inside you… for not solely do you write it, it rewrites you,” advises Rainer (op. cit., p. 325). “The unconscious story that has pushed your life is now made acutely aware… You uncover your true self behind your masks and henceforth are fierce with realty… You see your self because the protagonist of your life, and you understand it’s the decisions that decide your character, your values, and your story.”


In case you evaluate the journey of life to the bodily one, you could understand that the trail paved by selections, decisions, actions, and interactions enabled you to journey out of your origin to your vacation spot, and that every one formed who you have been and who you finally grew to become.

“It’s not the job of future generations to make sense of our lives from the remnants of {the marketplace}, scrap snapshots, refurbished heirlooms, digital bits of bits,” concludes Rainer (ibid, p. 326). “Solely we will make it a narrative of self, a narrative with the facility of fable, to go away someplace the most effective of what we have been and what we realized.”

Nothing might be extra instrumental on this course of than the self-written autobiography.


Borg, Mary. “Writing Your Life: An Straightforward-to-Comply with Information to Writing an Autobiography.” Fort Collins, Colorado: Cottonwood Press, Inc., 1998.

Case, Patricia Ann. “How you can Write Your Autobiography: Preserving Your Household Heritage.” Santa Barbara, California: Woodbridge Press Publishing Firm, 1989.

Rainer, Tristine. “Your Life as Story: Writing the New Autobiography”. New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1997.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *