Life-changing events

The Carvers and Schwartzes both have true life-changing events: children.

Marriage is a life-changing event (if it isn’t just a formalization of an existing arrangement). So is divorce (again, if it’s an actual change instead of a formalization).

Other than that?

Here’s a thought experiment. Comment if you feel inspired, but I’m not setting up a proper survey:

Take the following possible events in your own life (degrees of “possible” left open):

A. You publish a book

B. You’re nominated for and accepted to Who’s Who in America

C. You receive a Macarthur Award

D. You’re invited to keynote a major library conference (define “major” as you choose)

E. You receive a major ALA or ALA Divisional award (one that includes a four-digit cash honorarium)

F. You receive an honorary doctorate

G. You win Super Lotto, MegaMillions, or some other prize yielding at least $5 million over your lifetime

Would you consider each of those life-changing? If so, how and how much so? For example:

1. Worth blogging about, but not much more.

2. I wouldn’t tell a soul…at least not for a while.

3. Worth taking some time off to think about how it changes things.

4. Worth a celebratory dinner with my [spouse/closest friend/significant other]

5. Worth a big party for everyone I know

6. I’d certainly note it at my place of work, and hope they’d publicize it

I’m not suggesting answers. There are no “correct” answers here, I don’t believe.

You might be able to put together a sort of personality matrix based on the set of responses to those possibilities, although I think you’d need more responses (and more possibilities).

For now, it’s just an idle entry. (No, none of those has happened to me recently. This isn’t a post about me or my life, as it happens.)

5 Responses to “Life-changing events”

  1. The items involving large amounts of money would be life-changing by most definitions (MacArthur Award is $500,000). Though if I won the lottery, I might not publicize it to everyone I knew, as that seems likely to create problems.

    Some items don’t match well – receiving an honorary doctorate might be something to note in a company newsletter as personal news, but people generally don’t throw big parties for it (has anyone had a big party to celebrate getting divorced?)

    I think one way to frame is asking what changed the CIRCUMSTANCES of one’s life: e.g. Spouses, Kids, Money, Job, etc.

    Honors can be indirect changes by leading to changes in the primary factors above. Or not.

    When I won an EFF Pioneer Award, it was life-changing in complicated way, in that it was an honor, but it didn’t change the primary circumstances of my life (I wasn’t any richer, it didn’t give me any particular employment, etc.). .

  2. walt says:

    A good, thoughtful comment. The items weren’t designed to match; they were a variety of items that some people would consider life-changing in various ways. (I left out the Nobel Prize and Pulitzer Prize…)

    Actually, I have heard of people throwing big parties to celebrate being divorced. And I wouldn’t be surprised if someone threw a party on behalf of an honorary doctorate, their own or someone else’s.

    Your last paragraph speaks to the reality of some events…

  3. nichole says:

    Interesting topic. Re: publicizing a lotto win: many states are required to identify winners (open records laws, etc.) so it behooves a player to prepare for attention before claiming a prize.

  4. First off, Seth, I do celebrate my divorce, quite regularly, for the past eleven years. Every day unmarried to him is a good day. (Today would be my 21st wedding anniversary, so I’m a bit restimulated.) But in terms of your survey, Walt, none of these items counts as life-changing events to me. I do not say that lightly. I had two strokes before age 40; believe me, they were life changing. Oh, gobs of money would be nice, but I know I wouldn’t blog about it; I am very private about money matters.

    Let’s face it, I am a no-hoper on most of these. When my first book was published, my mother called it a great cure for insomnia. Ouch. Hasn’t kept me from writing, but it wasn’t a life change. My grandmother told me the best way to win the lottery was to keep the dollar in my pocket.I took it to heart, possibly the beginning of my notorious cheapness. The rest are even more unlikely. Walking and talking are gifts and honors enough for me, with reading and laughing and enjoying the view. I say this while pausing in the middle of a major life change. Now back to packing!

  5. walt says:

    Elizabeth makes an excellent point. In some divorces, both people walk out happier; in others, one would hope that at least one would wind up happier. (But I’ve never been divorced and hope never to be, so I’m no expert. It would be really sad if two people divorced and both felt worse after the divorce, but I’m sure it happens.)

    Otherwise, Elizabeth, I appreciate your note, and I think you’re probably right about degrees of life-changing events. I deliberately chose a set of positive events–ones that, if they change your life at all, should change it for the better.

    I guess I think all of those I listed are life-changing, but in some cases in a very small way, much as having a really good meal or a first-rate wine is life-changing in a small (and ephemeral) way. There are many degrees of life-changing.

    The first book? I must admit, I think of that as a fairly big deal. (Heck, I think of the 14th book as a fairly big deal…) There’s something about holding those author’s copies, even after you’ve approved (or created) the galleys…

    Between these and Dorothea’s separate comment at CavLec, I’m once again impressed and delighted by the quality of conversation hereabouts.