I had just turned seven when I first read, in a comic book, that the unexamined life was not worth living. I was, to say the least, aghast. Why hadn't I been informed of this earlier? I put down the comic and immediately set to work examining my life.
Upon examination, I found that my life was pretty good. My mom and dad were still married, and we lived in a nice house in a nice neighborhood. I was friends with most of the kids on my street, and I had even more friends at school. I had my own room, and a lot of toys, and six months earlier I had been to Disney World.
That evening at dinner, I informed my parents of the results of my examination. My mom chuckled and commented that she didn't know my school was so serious about employing the Socratic method in the classroom, a joke that went completely over my head at the time. But my dad asked me all sorts of questions about what I'd done, and listened thoughtfully to my answers. He always was more serious-minded than my mom.
The next day, my dad came to my room and handed me a blank notebook. I didn't get it. The school year had just started, and my new notebooks were nowhere near filled. And it seemed way too fancy to take to school. But I had it wrong. It wasn't a school notebook; it was a journal. Dad explained that it was something I could use to record my thoughts and observations as I continued to examine my life.
I was a little dubious -- hadn't I just finished examining my life? -- but I took my dad's advice and started keeping track of what I'd done each day. To my surprise, I found myself writing more and more, and before long I had moved from a bare-bones recitation of what I'd done to a more introspective and thoughtful -- thoughtful for a seven year old boy, that is -- analysis of why I had done it and how it made me feel.
By the end of the school year, I had filled two 100-sheet notebooks and started on a third. And by the day I turned twenty-one, I had filled fifty. I was, I was convinced, the most thoroughly self-examined young person in the United States, if not the world. Which is why it came as such a shock that evening when I realized that I had, quite unexpectedly, fallen in love with my best friend.