My friend Adam Robinson was curating an art festival in Baltimore and he asked me if I wanted to participate. I had never done anything like that, but I told him that I could write people’s life stories. I thought it would be fun and funny and that I would write on the backs of a few postcards and that would be it.
The first postcard I wrote was for Bart O’Reilly, a painter, who quit art school in Dublin to work as an ice cream man in Ocean City, which is how he met the woman who became his wife (see Bart’s life story posted here). When I finished the postcard and looked up, a line had formed. For the rest of the night, I interviewed dozens of people and wrote each person’s life story on the back of the postcard. I did this for four hours straight without getting up out of the chair that I was sitting in. I was completely exhausted by the end. My mind was racing with the details of people’s lives and the hope that I had done their various stories justice in the space of a postcard.
I was astounded by what people told me, the secrets and the difficulties, the pain and wonder and hope that they revealed. People told me about being in jail, about not being able to have children (and only wanting children because of the infertility), about having too many boyfriends, about computer hacking, about keeping it a secret that they like doing homework, about meeting their future wife while working abroad selling ice cream at a seaside boardwalk, about moving to a city because they liked a particular diner, about leaving their birth country when they were 5 years old and continuing to try to escape wherever they lived, about saying their favorite color is green even though it isn’t, and about feeling responsible for their adopted brother being institutionalized.
That’s how this started. If you would like me to write your life story (on a postcard)—and trust me, I want to—please get in touch. Tell me your name, age, where you were born, where you have lived, what you do (jobs and hobbies) or what you study (if in school) or what you want to do with your life. Tell me about any important events in your life, any life changing decisions, any strange things that have happened to you, anything that makes you particularly you. I will follow up with questions, then write up your life story, and mail you the postcard. You will be able to put it up on your refrigerator with a magnet if you want.