Where did you start out? Where have you been? Where are you now? Where would you like to go? How will you get there? What will affect whether you'll get there? These are important life questions.
Each page in Dream shows a different stage of life, from the time you're born to the time you're older. What is each stage of life? How old would you be in each stage? How is each stage different from the one before it? What are things you can do in one life stage that you can't do or are inappropriate in another life stage?
Social science researchers who explore the "life course" – the way a person's life changes and evolves – break down a person's life in different ways – by age, physical ability, cognitive ability, emotional tasks, social role.
The way we understand the life course also changes. It took three centuries to transform childhood into a full-fledged stage of life. Previously, children were regarded by society simply as miniature adults. But over time, childhood became a distinct life stage with its own clothing, roles, and expectations.
We have a dominant awareness of chronological age because it's very much the way we've organized our society – from education to the workplace to nursing homes – and because of the power of youthful marketing images. But there are actually four dimensions of time that influence how a person proceeds through their life: life time (chronological age); family time (events and roles within the family); social time (cultural expectations); and historical time (socio-cultural era).
A life course perspective takes into consideration all four dimensions of time and highlights the ways that events and decisions that occur early in life can affect your life at later points in time. For example, someone who marries and has children in their early twenties will have a different life course than someone who doesn't get married and have children until their thirties. Someone who goes to college has a different life experience than someone who doesn't. If the historical era or political environment is one in which women aren't allowed to actively participate in society, the opportunities for women are fewer and their life course is different.
Social and historical factors intersect with personal biography. A life course perspective also emphasizes the lifelong nature of development. Our understanding of any point in the life course is enhanced by taking into account our past history and future expectations.
Create your own life line by lining up six large sheets of paper. Each sheet represents one life stage – baby, toddler, child, teenager, young adult, older adult.
Use words, drawings, and clippings from magazines to depict each stage for your life and the influences on it. For life stages you've already experienced, like being a baby or toddler, use family photos and anecdotes from family members about special events or achievements they remember. Did anything major in your family life happen, like a move to a new country? Also include major historical events that took place during your life stages, like 9/11.
For life stages you haven't experienced, imagine what you'd like them to be like. Include education, career possibilities, health, hobbies, lifestyle, family.
Look at all the sheets in front of you. What does your life look like? How do you feel about what it looks like?
How do your sheets compare to other people's sheets? The first line in Dream is "I started out just like you." How do we all start out the same? Do people get more different as you go through each life stage? The last line in Dream is, "Dream a dream... your very own dream." How is each person unique?
What can you do in your life stage now to make future life stages happen the way you'd like them to? What can you control and what can't you control?