Hi everyone! I need your advice.
I have been asked to contribute to a writing project, a symposium of sorts. The parameters are broad, the only requirement is that the subject matter be written as a memoir about a defining life moment.
(No, I'm not getting paid, which is primarily why I agreed to participate.)
I'm of the opinion that life is full of defining moments. Every day is filled with defining moments. We have free will so we always have choices, and the choices we make define what happens next.
So I'm in a bit of a quandary as to how to choose one defining life moment. ("Today I chose to get out of bed." "I sold my favorite vinyl album so I could pay my cell phone bill this month." "I eat Red Delicious apples.")
I've narrowed it down to a few general topics that I think have the highest potential for resonance and meaningful insight.
One concern I have is that some of the topics also happen to be topics of news merit right now, and I don't want to appear to be pandering to current events. I also don't want to be cliché or lumped in with a bunch of other peoples' moments that are the same moment. But maybe that's a non-issue. Or maybe that's even a good thing. I just don't want eyes to roll and exasperated sighs to fill the air when the topic of my life defining moment is read. (Wanna takes bets as to how many, "The moment I first held my newborn baby" or "the day my mother/father died" moments will be submitted?)
Another concern is that some of them are not a single defining, pivotal moment, but a "period" of time. Which I think is most relevant. There is a catalytic moment, but it leads to a period of transition. Navigating that transition results in skills and awareness that defines life henceforth. It's not the catalytic moment that defines life, it's how you cope with the aftermath that defines life. I would choose that as a topic, "Every choice is a life defining moment on some level," and explore the cause and effect of choices made a critical junctures in life, with a few memoir-esque examples. A sort of Sliding Doors kind of thing, right down to how choosing a topic to write about a life defining moment is, in itself, a life defining moment. (That could get a little Eternal Sunshine-ish) But I think that might be cheating, or, not following directions. Except the directions are scant so there really are not rules to follow...except that it's to be a memoir about a life defining moment. I'm pretty sure they're looking for one specific moment that launched awareness or insight or character development...you know, inspiring. Or at least emotive.
I also want to keep it positive. But, as I made a list of positive moments in life it occurred to me that no substantial personal growth or "definition" comes from positive life events. At least not for me. ie, Falling in love, getting married or becoming a parent are positive, life-defining events for a lot people, but I don't have those experiences. Obtaining a driver's license, graduating college, getting a first "real" job...those are positive, life changing moments, but they're normal rites of passage and everyone shares similar experiences and insights on those moments. My edited life-changing positive life experience options are minimal : Learning how to read, first solo dive into the deep end, adopting a pet, first kiss (That's actually a decent memoir moment for me. I was 6, he was 9, it was really quite scandalous at the time and it also happens to be pivotal for another reason: I lost both my front teeth two minutes after my first kiss, yes, really. But it was life-defining. Funny, but not exactly pivotal.) My most positive, life-changing experiences involve decisions leading up to the moment I first met good friends. Those moments don't define me (nor do my friends) but, they certainly impacted my life many times. Mostly positive. But even in that realm I realized the reason my good friends are my good friends is because we supported each other in difficult times. It's easy to be friends with people when all you share is good times. The real deep and meaningful relationships come from sharing the difficult/scary/bad times - that's when trust and respect are established. A sad truth in life is that the most educational experiences in life are the most difficult experiences. You know, the whole "adversity makes men, prosperity makes monsters" thing.
I'm not going for controversy, mainly because I'm not a controversial person. The most controversial life changing moment I can come up with is when I discovered the healing power of alcohol. But I don't want to be seen as advocating escaping into the bottle as a way to define life, because I don't advocate reckless/emotional drinking. I know this, you know this, but to the casual reader I may come off as someone desperately trying to justify alcoholism. And that's when I realized I'm even more boring than I thought: The most controversial life defining moment in my life is discovering that every now and then smoothing/quieting some of the brain's sharp edges with the aid of a few ounces of liquor can be helpful. Wow, Trill, you're really living life out there on a limb.
For me, the inspiring tales of life are the ones where, through no fault of their own, someone is catapulted into a situation way, way, way outside their usual life and they are forced to navigate without a compass. Fish out of water, stranger in a strange land kind of situations. But there again, it's usually a series of choices in the aftermath of the catalyst that are life defining. No, they wouldn't happen without that catalyst, but let's face it, we're all one still-burning-cigarette-carelessly-tossed-from-a-car away from being forced to overcome tragedy. It's how we put out the fire, heal the burns and clean up the ashes that define life thereafter. There really aren't that many Sophie's Choices in most of our lives. We're forced to make difficult decisions in life, choices that have long-term consequences, but most of us will never have to choose which child gets sent to a gas chamber. Put in that perspective pretty much everything in our lives seems trivial. Choosing what life-defining moment to write about is especially trivial.
So. I have a multiple choice survey. If one of these jumps out to you, select it. It's completely anonymous, just make selection, hit next and that's that. Thanks in advance for your advice. You rock.