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Telling Our Stories: The Final Essays

After an overwhelming response by readers, we begin by sharing the first 3 of 12 today

By Julie Pfitzinger

To say that 2020 has proven to be unexpected in many ways is an understatement.

At Next Avenue, something unexpected, but wonderful, happened when we extended an invitation to readers to submit an original, 500-word personal essay offering an insightful perspective on aging. We received more than 620 submissions, and we read every one.

Native American art, telling our stories, next avenue
Credit: John Gilman

There's no way to briefly encapsulate the vast range of subjects that our readers addressed in their essays. However, if a few common themes emerged, they are these: remembering important people and places from the past; raising families; illness, mistakes – as well as good choices; caregiving; loss; sadness … and joy.

The loneliness, isolation and uncertainty brought about by the pandemic was top-of-mind for many of our writers, and understandably so.

Along with the submissions, we asked participants how it felt to tell their story, and those responses were possibly even more gratifying than the stories themselves.

Here are just three of many examples:

  • “Writing is therapeutic and I am happy to have the opportunity to share it somewhere other than my journal.”
  • “During this COVID-19 isolation period, it’s important to keep our spirits up. I enjoyed the challenge of writing.”
  • “I write to ponder what troubles me, confuses me, or fascinates me.”

Today, we are proud to begin sharing, in no particular order, the 12 final essays chosen by our Next Avenue team. Believe us when we say the final decisions were difficult ones, due to the abundance of outstanding selections.

However, we had to stick to our commitment to choose 12. These are the pieces that we found most enlightening, inspiring, wise and thoughtful.

Click one of the links below and you'll be taken directly to the essay.

Over the course of the next three Thursdays (November 19, November 26 and December 3), we will feature three more of the final essays each day.

In the words of writer Joan Didion, "We tell ourselves stories in order to live."

We hope you will be uplifted by these stories, perhaps see your own experience within and enjoy reading them as much as we did.

Photograph of Julie Pfitzinger
Julie Pfitzinger is the editor for Next Avenue’s lifestyle coverage across the Living and Technology channels. Her journalism career has included feature writing for the Star-Tribune, as well as several local parenting and lifestyle publications, all in the Twin Cities area. Julie also served as managing editor for nine local community lifestyle magazines. She joined Next Avenue in October 2017. Reach her by email her at [email protected] Read More
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