Last week’s journal writing prompts explored our first memories. This week, we move up to the next period of our lives—what I call “the early years.” The early years begin at roughly kindergarten and end at the beginning of middle school. For me, it was from age four to ten.
Physically and intellectually the early years were a time of tremendous growth: you developed skills like riding a bike, swimming, and playing sports; you learned how to read and express yourself through creative activities such as drawing and painting; you may have learned to play a musical instrument or dance; and you began to develop a social life.
The early years is the period of life you usually refer to as “when we were kids.” It was the time for fun and games, squabbles with neighborhood kids and siblings, and exploring the world around you. It was the time when your self image was beginning to solidify. And it was also the time when you were beginning to make sense of life and how you and your family fit into what you perceived as the larger world.
This week’s journaling prompts are designed to trigger memories from the early years and help you find creative ways to write about them.
- Do you remember your first day of school? If so, describe everything you can remember about the day and the situation (your parents’, teacher’s, other students’, and your responses). If not, describe your earliest school memory. For both, what—in particular—makes this first day or school event memorable? Looking back on that day, would you change anything about it and, if so, what?
- Who was your first school friend? Do you remember his or her name? Write about how you met him/her and describe how s/he looked then. What attracted you to your friend? Have you stayed in contact with that friend over the years? Write about what that friendship meant to you then and now. Do you have any regrets related to that friendship?
- Write a letter to your best friend in grade school reminiscing about the things you used to do together: write about the fun times, the times you argued, and the trouble you got into together.
- When you were in grade school, what did you want to be when you grew up? Close your eyes and remember what you felt like when you fantasized about that eventual outcome. Did you draw pictures or write about becoming an astronaut or famous actress? Did the adults around you discourage or encourage your young goals? And what do you think about all of that now?
- What was grade school like for you, both academically and socially? Did you struggle or get good grades? Did you have a lot of friends or just a few close ones? Were you comfortable or uncomfortable in school? Write a short scene that illustrates a moment on the playground or in the classroom. How did those early years in school affect your later years, both in school and in the workplace?
- Describe the most embarrassing thing that ever happened to you during those grade school years—whether in school or out of it.
- What’s your fondest memory from the early years? Freewrite for ten minutes about that memory, then write the memory as a scene. Include your surroundings, who was there with you, what happened, what you thought and felt, and any sensory details you remember (smells, sights, sounds, and touch).
The early years provide a treasure chest of memories, thoughts, feelings, and experiences to write about. I invite you to go back in time with these prompts, then share a comment with us about your experience.