I spent the entirety of Sunday afternoon going through the last 10 years of my life and mapping out data points for the following categories:
- Significant romantic entanglements/relationships
- Where I lived
- School Year
- Family events/milestones
- Personal events/milestones
I drew them out on newsprint, pulled out my ruler and my crayon/marker stash. Everything was color coded.
When I finished drawing each category out, I entered the information for each year into a spreadsheet.
If this seems like a very peculiar way to spend a Sunday, that’s probably because it is.
But I was catching up on my horoscopes for the month and apparently there’s some kind of commotion happening this week for my sign.
Jupiter is moving into Scorpio (my sun sign) and from what I can tell, it’s like a cosmic lotto win. Having your ship come in. Everything finally coming up roses.
(If you don’t care about astrology or think it’s fake, that’s fine. This post is not for you and it’s not about astrology.)
There are plenty of reasons that I’ve been trying to clean house, mentally and emotionally, that I won’t go into here. But this news about Jupiter and the planetary brouhaha to follow gave me a deadline on something I’ve been thinking about for ages.
This is not a sob story.
I’ll be the first one to admit I’ve lived a relatively charmed and privileged life, all told. What sadness and struggles I faced growing up were mitigated by the amazing family and support systems I had. I will never deny that.
I’m also not trying to say that my life was perfect or that I don’t have my fair share of foggy, confusing childhood baggage to deal with.
What I do know, is that since about 2010, life really started picking up the pace for my “traumatic” life events and monumental changes. I’m not sure why, but it feels like a whole lifetime of shit has been packed into the past 7 years.
For a long time, I figured this was just how life goes for people. You move out on your own, suddenly “real life” begins and everything is just harder, worse in every way. C’est la vie.
After I said this to a handful of therapists and friends over the years, it became clear to me (from their horrified reactions after I went over the shortlist) that this is not actually the case.
I’ve only recently come to realize that being a bit more self actualized and doing some internal work with myself has been way overdue.
But in what I can only guess is a side effect of the way my life has gone for the past few years, my understanding of how my life has progressed from year to year and even the passage of time in relation to life events has totally escaped me.
I’ll think something lasted much longer than it did, or that one bit of trauma was an isolated incident, only to realize it was actually happening at the same time as many other terrible things.
I’ve been telling myself I should map out my life for about a year or two now. Just to line up relationships with jobs, moves with funerals and weddings. Just so it all logically progressed from season to season. Just so I could know, see it represented as facts all lined up neatly in rows.
So that’s what I did.
Your own personal history project.
After making this grand timeline, here is where I see this sort of exercise being beneficial:
Clarity around heartbreaks
This is the biggest realization for me. When I lined up my relationships with the other life events (death, divorce, disease), I realized that many of the big, gut wrenching break ups that had otherwise shattered me were actually a form of escapism or indirect processing of bigger, scarier realities.
(As anyone who’s been reading along regularly knows, I’m not an expert and I can only speak for myself about any of this.)
I’m not sure if this is some type of codependency or just emotional immaturity wreaking havoc, but the consistency with which my most toxic romantic relationships aligned with other tragedies or upsets was the most alarming discovery I made in this process.
Obviously, I didn’t untangle what this discovery means yet and I’m not calling up my exes to get their perspectives anytime soon (for those exes reading this, hi please don’t panic!), but just seeing the alignment was enough to teach me that I have channeled a lot of stress into relationships and attempted to process things that way.
Compassion towards my younger self
I can be really unkind to the younger versions of myself. I blame her for a lot of things, like staying with an emotional abusive partner or never starting a savings account.
But when I laid everything out, year by year, I realized that the times I was the most irresponsible or the most reckless, I was reacting to in the only ways I knew how to at the time.
For example, went my transmission on my car died, I spent my puny savings on a scooter to get myself to work and class. When that scooter was stolen and totaled, I dropped out of school and quit one of my two jobs because I didn’t have a reliable option for getting around town.
I kick myself for buying that damn scooter all the time and even more often for not taking the summer off like a normal student. But seeing everything else going on in my life plotted out, it all makes more sense that I would have just made the easiest and least painful choices at the time.
It’s really easy to be bitter about the choices you did or didn’t make when you were younger, but if you’re honest (or have it all laid out in front of you like I had) your older and wiser self sees simple solutions or more responsible decisions clear as day. Your younger, stupider self probably wouldn’t have see those same options, even if they were right in front of their face the whole time.
Power over my own narrative
This is where we come back to the astrology bit from earlier. I won’t go in depth about my attitudes towards astrology here, but at the most basic level, I find comfort in the parallels between planetary movements and the cycles of human life.
If nothing else, astrology is a tool (like tarot or meditation) that unlocks different perspectives and allows me to zoom out for a fuller picture of my life and experiences.
Laying out the past in this exercise and journaling consistently in the present makes me feel like I am truly steering the ship of my future, which is a pretty auspicious attitude to have as Jupiter enters Scorpio.
Keeping tabs on myself through creative work is going to be a big part of this new cycle I’m entering. Not only do I enjoy it and find it beneficial in the present, I’d really rather avoid having to plot out the next 10 years of my life in a spreadsheet.
The other major piece of this is autonomy over my patterns and behaviors.
Now that I can see the fault lines running through my life, I can address them and work towards healing those issues.
Again, I promise I’ll get to therapy eventually. Now I’ll have a handy guide for whatever therapists I encounter! Hah.
So, tell me, am I the only one who has felt like this? Has anybody else made a ridiculous retrospective timeline of their life? Anybody have good therapist recommendations for Tallahassee? Ok love y’all thanks for reading!