I’ve recently begun working on my memoir. It might sound silly, given that I’m only 21 years old and hopefully have many more years on the horizon. If I publish this memoir, it will be much later on, when I have had more experiences, more time, more love and more adventure. But that hasn’t stopped me from starting to write it now.
I’ve written vignettes mostly, pieces of memories I remember from the last two decades of my life. I remember car rides to elementary school with my father while listening to Coldplay and U2. I remember my first day of college, watching the film “Brooklyn” and feeling so alone yet so free. I remember the wind through my hair as I stood on the California beach after my first real heartbreak. The memoir hasn’t taken shape yet, but when the inspiration strikes me, I craft my memories out of sentences and put them onto the page.
You may wonder why I’m doing this and why I’m encouraging you to do so as well. It seems like a strange idea. The memoirs we see on the shelves of Barnes and Noble tend to tell the tales of people with unusual lives or those who have completed some incredible or arduous task or have great historical or political significance. This can feel discouraging for many of us young people, myself included; we may think our lives aren’t worthy of a memoir yet, if ever.
Regardless of your story or your accomplishments, your life is worth sharing with whoever you want to share it with. Your memoir doesn’t have to be some beautifully polished manuscript, ready for submission to a publishing house. It can just be for you, for those you love and trust, or for no reason at all. Not every creative project needs to be perfect or for a specific reason. Some of the best art results from passion and not from profit. No one can tell your story better than you, so why not try it? Here’s an argument in favor of starting your memoir now, regardless of your age.
1. To have memories for yourself
Memories fade with time. I remember yesterday vividly, but in a few years, I likely will not. I can imagine that I will want to look back on my early years, but that may be hard if I don’t have a written record of my experiences. Writing about the early portion of your life now, when the memories are easy to recollect, could aid you in the future and allow you to reminisce about this era of your life decades down the road.
2. To leave memories for others
Eventually, we will all leave the Earth. It’s an inevitability of being human. Life ends and our physical existence ends with us. Those we leave behind will hopefully miss us, and a memoir, published or unpublished, leaves your memories for them to go through. It will give them a deeper insight into your thoughts, feelings and experiences that can be valuable to them in their time of grief. This is a depressing thing to think about, but it remains a compelling reason to write a memoir.
3. To wrestle with your experiences on the page
Some experiences are difficult for us to process, particularly trauma. Trauma can take years to process or move on from. Writing can be a particularly useful tool in the journey toward healing. I’m not necessarily asking you to dwell on memories that may be difficult for you to think about. I am suggesting that writing about these painful times can help you process or more deeply understand your feelings about them.
Even if you burn your manuscript when you’re done writing, or erase it from your hard drive, that recovery will stay with you, lingering long after the words have evaporated.
4. To understand yourself and allow others to understand you
Like coming to terms with painful aspects of your past, writing a memoir can help you understand yourself more deeply. We all claim to understand ourselves fully, but who you are is more complex than you likely know.
Writing down your life from your perspective could offer further understanding of who you are as a person and how you’ve developed as you’ve grown older. It can also help you understand your growth as time goes on, when you look back on what you’ve written months or years or decades later.
5. To leave a piece of you behind
Similar to leaving memories for those who care about you, your story could have an impact on those who did not know you. Never assume your experience is ordinary or unworthy of attention. Human existence is vast, and every person lives a uniquely different life. Your story is worth telling, and we are all the authors of our own narratives.
Write your memoir. Disregard any minutia that will hold you back, like grammar, or syntax or spelling. Just write. Open yourself up to wherever your memories take you and follow the path they lay before you. Even if no one ever reads it, write your memoir.