Last month I began a class on how to become a Guided Autobiography (GAB) instructor. In simple terms, GAB is a process in which individuals produce a record of their lives, in writing, and share their writing with other class participants.
It’s a fascinating program. Each week students are asked to write about a specific topic – family, money, health, etc. “Sensitizing questions” are provided, giving participants roads to ponder as they decide where to take their writing for the week. My class is currently in week four and I know more about my “classmates” than I know about my neighbors. There’s an awful quick learning curve in this kind of environment.
It was in week one, before we even knew everyone's name, that we were sharing a “branching point” in our lives. A moment when the direction of our lives took a sharp turn and changed our trajectory forever. Some wrote about changes in their health or family. Others wrote about one-sentence, off-the cuff statements from a significant other that made them aware of a new reality or belief system for themselves. The essays were as varied as the participants.
The subject of my two-page story came to me easily, but I realized, mostly when listening to the stories of others, that I’ve had many branching points. We all do. The truth is, without these branching points, our lives – both public and private – are straight lines. The branching points are what give our stories depth and texture. They explain how we got be who we are today.
What are your branching points? There are obvious ones, like a move to a new town or the chance encounter with a boy you ended up marrying. But there are others too – light bulb moments when you realized a new truth about yourself.
Before you write your life story, spend some quiet time really thinking about all the different branching points in your life. You’ll be amazed how clearly they map out how you became you.