Taking stock of my experiences over time

A timeline creates a graphic picture of your life (or a period in your life) that will help you to identify the ups and downs, and also any patterns or recurring themes that you may not be aware of.

It can be very difficult to look back over our life or our experiences; for some people, this may bring to mind some issues or memories that they would rather not confront. If you find this activity distressing, you may want to omit it or discuss it with someone you trust. Remember, you can also select which areas of your life you want to focus on. In this section we have created carers’ timelines using the website bubbl.us.

In Activity 2.2 we suggest you may like to use this website to create your own timeline. Note, however, that although bubbl.us is free, users are required to sign for an account. (Bubbl.us is not an Open University website and the OU is not responsible for third party websites such as this or the information you choose to share with them.)

Bubbl.us [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] has instructions on how to use this free online tool. If you’d rather not use this resource don’t worry, pen and paper will do just as well. You might have other ideas of how to create a timeline.

Before you create your own timeline, look at examples of other carers’ timelines.

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Figure 2.2 Lesley’s timeline

Lesley’s timeline begins when she starts her career as a nurse. The first few bubbles illustrate positive experiences occurring over time (left to right) as she gains experience and progresses in her career.

Then Lesley’s life becomes more complicated. She is married and has children, but is also reacting to some new and difficult challenges. These are shown below the centre line.

The last part of this timeline shows how difficult experiences are happening almost at the same time as positive events. Lesley is still a carer, with her own health problems and financial challenges, but she also has some ‘ups’. She has been able to make her own choices and enjoy new challenges including completing an Open University course and starting a business studies course. Timelines don’t always progress in ups and downs. Sometimes ups and downs can be happening at the same time, as these boxes show.

Now have a look at Scott’s timeline.

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Figure 2.3 Scott’s timeline

Scott left school and started college, which he continues to enjoy. College is an ‘up’ compared to school, so college is positioned slightly higher. While at school and then starting out at college he had some difficult personal and family times. This box is lower indicating a ‘down’.

Throughout these personal challenges Scott continued to make progress with his studies, moving from few qualifications via a National Progression Award (NPA) in Childcare to working on a Higher National Certificate (HNC) in Social Care. This large middle box shows this experience is still continuing.

The volunteering and fundraising boxes are ‘ups’ that he often chooses to do.

The support he gained from a college counsellor and the young adult carers support worker and other carers have been high points and these points in his timeline have led to further positive experiences as the boxes show by moving up and to the right.