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Friday Freedom Question: The first line of your autobiography

The question for today: You’re writing your autobiography. What’s the opening line or lines?

Whether this is strictly a “freedom question” or not depends entirely on you. What sums you up? What introduces you to people who may have no idea who or what you are? Where and how are you rooted? What’s the biggest grabber of your life? (Or something like that.)

The writer William Alexander Percy’s autobiography opens, “My country is the Mississippi Delta, the river country.” Given that Percy was the scion of the family that developed and for decades ruled the delta, and that his status was a blessing, a curse, and a prison to him all his life, that’s good.

Tennis star Andre Agassi, who retired from the sport in agonizing pain, wrote, “I open my eyes and don’t know where I am or who I am. Not all that unusual — I’ve spent half my life not knowing. Still, this feels different. This confusion is more frightening. More total.” Maybe not a summation of a life, but quite an attention-getter.

Nelson Mandala wrote: “Apart from life, a strong constitution, and an abiding connection to the Thembu royal house, the only thing my father bestowed upon me at birth was a name, Rolihlala. In Xhosa, Rholihlala literally means ‘pulling the branch of a tree,’ but its colloquial meaning more accurately would be ‘trouble maker.'” Pretty apt summation.

Ronald Reagan began, “If I’d gotten the job I wanted at Montgomery Ward, I suppose I never would have left Illinois.” (The man did have a droll sense of humor and a career that sure took him places he never set out to go.)

Those last two and more are found here. And here are some tips if your own perfect opening doesn’t spring full-blown from your head.

FWIW, it took me days to come up with my own, and even now I can’t decide between two possibilities:

So they thought I was a bad seed? Fine. I would do everything I could to make such “badness” grow and flourish.


The best day of my life was that day I realized everything I’d been taught was a lie.

So. You?


  1. Jorge
    Jorge April 5, 2019 3:13 am

    I will think about it but for right now I’m shamelessly stealing your second one. First one is not bad but the second, just perfect.

    I clearly remember the day and the event that triggered it. I was in 5th grade. The implications of that realization unfolded over the years but that was the day I “woke”.

  2. Owl
    Owl April 5, 2019 5:24 am

    That’s a tough one, mainly because my life has been rather nondescript.

    How about “It’s all bullshit. From the stuff we were taught in school, to the stuff we are told to believe and consume now, it’s all bullshit. Why should this be any different?”

    Or maybe a variation of your second – “When I realized that the ultimate truth is that there is no ultimate truth, it all began to fall into place.”

    More later. Maybe. 🙂

  3. Pat
    Pat April 5, 2019 6:12 am


    “I was always asking Why. I wanted to know the reason for things.

    “But adults do not have time for answers. Or do not always know the answers. Or – more often – did not want to be questioned, they wanted just to be believed, and obeyed.

    “I know now that they believed what they were told, and wanted me to do the same, because they did not know how to think for themselves.

    “So I determined to find my own answers. And in doing so, I learned how to think, and judge for myself what is true or not.”

  4. deLaune
    deLaune April 5, 2019 7:46 am

    What a marvelous exercise!
    Here’s my opening (yes, I am long-winded):

    I lay in bed as shock gave way to despair. Less than an hour before, Jim McKay announced that the terrorists had murdered their hostages. Eleven young men, men I thought heroic, now lay dead. My mind refused to focus. Yet, somehow, I began talking to God.
    “If so much evil exists in this world, I want to dedicate myself to you; I want to be a force for good.”

  5. Claire
    Claire April 5, 2019 12:08 pm

    “What a marvelous exercise!”

    And what marvelous responses.

    deLaune, you’re not long-winded at all, and that was both heart-rending and a unique response (probably to both the question and the tragedy).

    Jorge, Owl, and Pat — Isn’t it interesting how a search for truth in one form or another marked us all?

    Yeah, the frustration of asking, “Why?” and getting either a brush-off or being fed some mental pabulum instead of a real-deal answer … gnrrrr.

  6. Comrade X
    Comrade X April 5, 2019 2:13 pm

    I have made my mistakes, I have been wrong, I have even been bad, but just because I try today to be right, that in itself will not undo what has been done nor will it guarantee that at a future date I will be able to look at today and not say that it was any much difference then the days before however there is one thing for sure; it’s has been fun and I do intend to continue with that.

  7. larryarnold
    larryarnold April 5, 2019 7:41 pm

    1. It took me a long time to learn that the best intentions lead to the worst mistakes.

    2. For several years I was the only Texas licensed social worker and certified firearm instructor, and those were good times.

  8. Steve Watt
    Steve Watt April 6, 2019 5:36 am

    “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, in other words, Friday!”

  9. kentmcmanigal
    kentmcmanigal April 6, 2019 8:25 am

    “In junior high school, my younger sister developed an interest in sign language, which went on to become her career. One of the first signs she learned and practiced with delight was ‘weirdo’, just so she could tease me.”

  10. coloradohermit
    coloradohermit April 7, 2019 5:07 pm

    One of the best pieces of advice my Mother ever gave me was “Kiddo, everything isn’t always about you!”. And my mind opened to the world around me.

  11. Jeremy P.
    Jeremy P. April 7, 2019 9:48 pm

    I did it my way. It caused uncountable problems, abandonment of family and loss of friends.

    It was worth it.

  12. Dana
    Dana April 8, 2019 12:07 am

    When she asked, “Are you like a crazy person?” I immediately thought, “I am quite sure they will say so.”

    I stole that line shamelessly from V’s Introductory Monologue, but any further comparison with “V” is totally unwarranted.

  13. Joel
    Joel April 8, 2019 2:32 pm

    “All the stories you’re about to read are based on truth.”

  14. Not My Name
    Not My Name April 8, 2019 6:42 pm

    “It was in high school when I discovered Heinlein. The freedom of his characters to walk their own path is what impressed me. It then took years to realize both conservatives and liberals wanted to control my life, just in different ways.”

  15. Doug
    Doug April 9, 2019 12:49 am

    First half of my life I was an ass#$%#.
    The second half, I was better. Not as bad as some, but worse than others.

  16. patrick jay fowler
    patrick jay fowler April 9, 2019 11:43 am

    All I ever wanted was a paid for place to live , good company , and honest employment…Patrick

  17. patrick jay fowler
    patrick jay fowler April 9, 2019 11:49 am

    All I ever wanted was a paid for place to live , good company , and honest employment…

  18. John Wilder
    John Wilder April 9, 2019 7:06 pm

    “I never expected that the robot with the face of Elvis would shoot back, but then again, I guess I had it coming – I was singing off key.”

  19. ILTim
    ILTim April 10, 2019 11:55 am

    6th grade social studies. We all arrived on the first day with our brand new text books. The teacher held one up and said “Put this in the very bottom of your locker and forget that you have it until the end of the year, then you can turn it in”. He proceeded to write “PARADIGM” on the board and tell us that most of everything we knew was bullshit. Christopher Columbus did not discover America, and so on. “The crap in ‘this book’ is a bunch of lies and I won’t teach it.”

    Every so often I wonder what became of him. That class was mid 1990’s and I have to assume he’s been sent through the woodchipper by now.

  20. Dan
    Dan April 10, 2019 6:15 pm

    It was just getting to be fun, there towards the end….

  21. Bill St. Clair
    Bill St. Clair April 11, 2019 11:45 am

    I like my Twitter bio, expanded a little here to have the complete sentences that you’d expect in a book.

    “I’m a Lisp wizard, an Elm student, and Ancap to the bone. Dance! Sing! Play that funky trombone, white boy!”

  22. Historian
    Historian April 12, 2019 9:59 am

    My much-provoked late Mother , during my late adolescence, once commented after one particular incident, “Historian, you *never* do anything except exactly what you want!” To which I replied, “Thank you for the compliment, Mother, but I’m afraid that is not entirely true.” Provoked beyond restraint, she hissed, “That. Was. NOT. A. Compliment!”

    These days, I describe myself as someone who asks awkward questions, and looks for honest answers.

  23. david
    david April 13, 2019 5:08 pm

    “Though he seldom met his own standards for behavior, he never stopped trying.”

  24. Anyone (but me, this time)
    Anyone (but me, this time) May 6, 2019 11:36 pm

    I was never bored.

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