Article written by Melissa Leedom
When a person passes away, you’ll see their name with dates like 1947-2022 underneath, where the dash represents the person’s entire life. I’ve even seen a meme that asks, “What will you do with your dash?”
This article, though, is to remind you that, whatever you do with your dash, you need to document it!
Your parents may have already done some of this for you: new moms and dads take a profusion of photos of their little ones, filling in baby books with such milestones as “first tooth” or “first word.” They often continue by photographing their children on the first day of every new school year, and perhaps on other special occasions like birthdays and holidays. After high school proms and graduation, though, the number of pictures taken (by parents, anyway) drops precipitately, if only for the simple reason that “baby” has flown the nest and is no longer available for photo ops.
But it’s your life we’re talking about here – and you have every reason to continue documenting it for posterity! In an age when most photos are digital – and stored in your phone, tablet or PC – the number of photos that actually become prints is a small fraction of those that used to be produced by film cameras.
So, once a year, on your birthday, or maybe on New Year’s Day, when everyone else is making those un-keepable resolutions, open up the file on your computer (or wherever you store and manipulate files) named “Project Me” or “The Life and Times of Heather/Heath Anderson,” or another name of your choosing.
If you want to be consistent about it from year to year, you can create a form to fill out in which your “picture of me of the year” is top and center. Include such information as:
Year: 27; Employer: Solar Plexus Solutions; Job/Position: Account Manager; Salary: $xK; City: Atlanta, GA (include your whole address if you want); Marital Status: Single (engaged, divorced, separated, widowed, dating Ron/Rhonda)
This information will document any job changes, promotions, moves and other major life events that occur in a given year. You may remember them all, all your life, but you may not (the stuff they don’t tell you about menopause…); those who come behind you certainly won’t know.
While you’re at it, why not include such information as “current hobbies” “or fitness activities,” “personal accomplishments” (“ran the Boston marathon,” “finished writing my second novel,” “appeared on ‘Good Morning, America’”), “best books read this year,” or “movies/plays/concerts attended.” Include photos of events (parties, weddings, etc.) you attend (taking great care to date them and identify any and all people in them. Remember: you may not be the only person who will enjoy looking through this booklet, which is kinda the point). If you kept any newspaper clippings or headlines during the year, scan them into jpgs, including them on a subsequent page titled (creatively): “Stuff That Happened This Year” or, more eloquently, “Highlights of the Year” or “In the News.”
Buy yourself a three-ring binder and put your “me” pages in it, either in consecutive or reverse consecutive order (you may even want to consider numbering your pages, like 27-1, 27-2, etc., just to keep everything straight – ya never know who might take something out to give it a closer look…). Personally, I would lean toward reverse consecutive order, putting this year’s page(s) on top of last year’s so that you don’t have to look at the same picture every time you open the book. But that’s just me.
As a person living in the digital age, you have the great advantage of being able to keep your “me” book in at least two places – in print and in your digital files. If, God forbid, disaster strikes and you lose one of these forms (with any luck, only the physical form – you can print out new pages), you can always recover using the other.
But do print it out – don’t just keep it on your computer. You may not want to share it with anyone for years; you may not even want to leaf through it yourself until you’ve filled out 15, 20 or more pages. But the day will come.
For instance, perhaps you’re only 22, single, no Significant Other, crappy job. Who wants to document that? you might think. But maybe in addition to your crappy job, you’ve got a side hustle – you’re starting your own business, you’re doing stand-up at comedy clubs anywhere you can get a gig, you’re taking acting lessons – you get the idea. So, when 27 or 28 rolls around, you might still be single, but you’re dating the 2027 equivalent of Chris Rock or Chris Evans. Your store is the boutique in the trendy part of town, or you’ve signed a contract to do your own Netflix comedy special. Look where you’ve come in five years! And who knows what the future holds? Husband(s), children, homes in Malibu and Maui and Martha’s Vineyard – and you’ll have documented all those shining moments for your future children, grandchildren, fans – biographers? – to see and marvel over: “To think, she used to work at GAP!”
You don’t have to make a major deal out of “Project Me,” or maybe at least not at first – you don’t want to over-commit so that it’s too much of a chore to keep up with. Once a year, on an otherwise uncommitted Saturday afternoon, go through your selfies and pick out the best one (or two or more). Or perhaps you had a professional portrait done—use that! If you have a free evening down the road and something cool has just happened, open up your document and click on “insert.”
It’s your dash – don’t neglect to document it!