Laura Newland, executive director, DC Office of Aging and Community Living

Last month, I got a chance to read some incredible stories. Tales of love, loss, finding purpose, and overcoming in the face of adversity. These were the stories of our older Washingtonians. In July, members of the Bernice Fonteneau Senior Wellness Center launched their “Stories into Books” project, a collection of memoirs from 15 District seniors, compiled into two books.

It was a privilege for me to learn more about the personal life stories, amazing journeys, triumphs, and disappointments of some of the seniors, whom I’ve known for years. It got me thinking about my own parents and the stories they’ve kept filed away in their memory bank. Like many of us, the realization that my parents actually had a life that went beyond raising me and my siblings was unfathomable throughout my childhood—and admittedly into adulthood. It occurred to me that I’ve only ever known one version of my parents—the version seen through my own experiences.

My dad turns 70 this month and I hadn’t quite figured out what to do for him for his birthday. After reading theses memoirs, I’ve decided that I’d like to help my dad write his own memoir—the way he wants it to be told, and in his own words. The older I get, the more important it has become for me to get to know the version of my dad that didn’t revolve around me and my siblings. There’s more to his story.

And I know there’s more to your story. How do you want your story to be told? Is it the story of your family? Is it a reflection of your life and the choices you’ve had to make? No matter who you are, you have a story to tell, and you may be surprised that those closest to you are interested in knowing your story, in your own words.

Now I know there are a lot of great story tellers out there—my dad is no exception—but I encourage you to really look at how you can reconstruct your experiences into written words. Memoirs are not just for the famous. It’s about inviting others to understand your perspective, and that’s just as important. Part of being a community is remembering together and understanding each other.

If you’re interested in learning more about memoir writing, or if you’re interested in working with someone who can help put your story to words, reach out to us at 202-724-5626 or Tell us your story. DCOA — with you.

WI Guest Author

This correspondent is a guest contributor to The Washington Informer.

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