Josh Irby

Live from Sarajevo

Your Biography, Today

Copyright Andrei.D40 (Creative Commons)

What if you hired a biographer to write your story? I am not talking about later, when you are at the end of your life, but now—today.

She would read through your journals noting repeated themes, scan over your hard drive with wrinkled brow, sift through boxes of yellowed correspondence. If you hire a good biographer, she will follow you around for months, interview your friends and coworkers (and enemies), ask probing questions and follow-up on inconsistencies. She will come home with you for a holiday and meet your family. One by one she will take them into a side room and ask about your childhood, early trauma, the ease or difficulty with which you socialized with others your age. All this information she will painstakingly record in her black moleskin.

After this, she will draw out a timeline of your life on butcher paper and adhere it to the wall of her office. Weeks will pass as she leans back in her chair staring at it. From this she will draw broad conclusions about your story. She will link the day your father ___________ to your inability to _____________, your mother’s ____________ to your habit of ______________, that bizarre event in first grade to your performance with your company today. She will divide your life into sections—“the early years”, “away at school”, etc—and chapters. She will write your story.

If you hired a biographer, what would your story be about? What would the title be?

A New Kind of Biographer

Perhaps we wait too long to write our stories. Biographies, in general, are descriptive books. They tell us what happened. They describe a person’s life. But if I hire a biographer today, it can be more than that. I can read the story, see patterns and storylines, and make changes. The biography could be prescriptive.

Maybe we need a new kind of profession—personal biographer for the common man. For a fee, they will tell you what kind of story you are living, while there is still time to change it. If you don’t like the storyline, live differently. If you don’t like the title, make different choices.

That is, in fact, the way life works anyway.

You, The Autobiographer

You and I are autobiographers. We participate with God in writing our story. (you can tweet that) Sure we don’t have control over every aspect of our stories—you didn’t chose your parents, the choices they made, the places you lived, or many of the negative experiences of life—but we are coauthors. Each morning we decide what kind of story to write.

If you don’t like the story you are writing with your life, live differently. Make different choices. Face challenges instead of running from them. Move towards relationships instead of away from them. Maximize your gifts instead of mourning your weaknesses. Serve others instead of defending yourself. Live. Love. Grow. Do. Be.

Perhaps, if we do this, we will live the kind of life people write about.

Just for fun, leave the title of your “biography” (as it stands today) in the comments below.

About Josh

  • “Grabbing the Pole”
    Funny, I was just working on this yesterday. According to my understanding of Old Testament history, while wandering in the wilderness, an Israelite woman who was ready to give birth would call for the ‘birthing pole.’ She would grab it and squat down, deliver the baby, pick it up, pack it up and keep on walking. This is a recurring theme in my life. When faced with a challenge, I grab the pole, squat, drop, pack and move on.
    I’d love some feed back on this since I am planning on writing a book about “Grabbing the Pole.”