Decade

I am not good at record-keeping. That statement will make family and friends laugh because it is a huge understatement. Because of this, I am not sure what year the following image was taken. I know I was in college, and it was before my senior year, which means I was between 20 and 23. I will make a wild guess and say 21.

Image by Jubilare

Image by Jubilare

I loathe pictures of myself. For every one that looks like me, there are fifty in which I look like someone else or like a marshmallow with hair. No one in my immediate family is photogenic, though my father is better than the rest of us. The only reason this picture exists is because a professor required it. I was taking a basic photography class, and in his wisdom our prof required us to have at least one self-portrait per roll of film.

Yes. Film. That camera in my hands? That’s my baby. I haven’t used it in too long, something I intend to remedy, but it gives me a feeling of control I have never felt from using a digital camera. The image was taken with silver film, developed and printed by me.

So, why am I posting this? I turned 31 in February, marking around a decade since this picture was taken. This got me to thinking about the passage of time and what that means, and made me want to take another picture of myself now. And so I did. This time I used my father’s digital Nikon. I dressed, as closely as I could, in the same way. Here is the image in black and white, for comparison, and in color as it was originally.

Image by Jubilare

Image by Jubilare

Image by Jubilare

Image by Jubilare

The shirt in the first picture has gone through a metamorphosis. It is now part of a quilted prayer-rug a good friend made for me.

The moonstone necklace around my neck now has a crack from side to side. Why? It was run over by a car on a gravel road in the Smoky Mountains.

The coat. Ah, the coat. That is my magic coat. It belonged to my father, and he gave it to me when I was in high-school. It is never too warm, but always warm enough, even when I was in Salzburg, Austria, on a snowy New Years Eve and someone poured vodka all over me. All that has changed about it, since the first picture, is that my cat, Geoffrey, managed to bite all the way through one sleeve. It’s thick leather, too, which makes me wonder about the strength of Geoffrey’s jaw.

The ring on my finger in the first image, though identical to the one in the other two, is not the same ring. The one I currently have is, if I am counting right, number 3. The first one was lost whilst gardening, and has never been found. The second one split, my active hands being tough on silver. The third, though scratched, is in good shape.

And then, of course, there is me. The creases between my eyes are deeper, but I had that long before I turned 21. The eyebrows drawn together in thought is an expression everyone who has met me will recognize. We even have pictures of baby-me with that expression.

I had glasses at 21, too, but I must have been experimenting with contacts when I took the first image. Contacts and I don’t get along. The rings, evident in all the pictures, have left a good callous on my hand. I worry, with the surgery ahead of me, that I will no longer be allowed to wear the ring on my right.

There is silver in my hair now! Just a few strands, so far. I like them.

I am a happier person now, than I was then. Depression has been my shadow for a long, long time, but it used to jerk me around a lot more. Time has softened that cycle, at least for now. I’ve grown and changed in thoughts, in faith, in experience. I still have respect for that 21-year-old who was me. She had come a long way from the 11-year-old me. Though I have changed a lot, she and I still have the same foundation, and pretty much the same orientation in the world. The biggest difference is what I have learned about myself and about the world that she did not know.

Most of all, I am struck by the complete strangeness and unpredictability of life. I mean, shirt-to-prayer-rug? Necklace run over by a car? And finding myself fighting cancer is far from the strangest thing that has happened between then and now.

My strongest feeling as I look at these images and think about the time in between?

It’s not nostalgia, or regret, or triumph. It’s simply awe. Awe that I have been alive for ten years since that time, and that so much has happened and not happened.

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About jubilare

Just another tree in the proverbial forest. Look! I have leaves! View all posts by jubilare

23 responses to “Decade

  • pLusModel21beauty

    I don’t think your a marshmallow with hair :) I actually think your quite beautiful

    • jubilare

      Thank you :)
      I haven’t posted the pictures in which I look like a marshmallow, but they exist. Because of my complexion, I’m often washed out in photographs.

  • Deanna

    I don’t ever think you look like a marshmallow, Anne. And I see MANY pictures of you (since I live with you) =). I enjoy pictures of you!

  • Rob

    31? Pshaw! I was that age 27 years ago.

    It’s good to actually see you. Take care.

  • Colleen

    Oh, Anne, make your mother laugh and cry at the same time. Love this post. Love the adventure of being a witness to you. Love you.

  • petunialu

    ;-) I remember when you took the original! Even if we don’t feel very photogenic it’s nice to have pictures. Visual memory is so strong.

  • Mary

    We’re so hard on ourselves with our physical appearances. I too hate to have my picture taken and can’t even remember the last time I did. I think my feet made it in to one picture a year ago during a trip to visit my sister in Colorado. Oh, and when I went to Ireland about 5 years ago, 2 (2!) of the 5 or 6 hundred photos have me in them, only because the people I was with forcibly removed the camera from my hands to take a picture of me. I’m glad now though. I still don’t particularly enjoy looking at pictures of myself but like you say, it’s nice to have the physical reminder.

    • jubilare

      Photographs are worse than general appearance, or at least I find it so. I can be happy with how I look in person, but then a picture just looks wrong, or horrible, or weird.
      I don’t even like taking pictures of others, most of the time. My frequent travel-buddy laughs that most of her pictures are of people and most of mine are places and things. I value the pictures of people more and more, though, and I am glad said friend always made me take at least one picture each place to “prove” I had been there.

  • Sharon Autenrieth

    It’s so nice to attach a face to the you I’ve come to know online!

  • Raewyn Hewitt

    What a beautiful post – and amazing to have a do over 10 years later and watch the passage of time. I love the way you’ve been able to recreate the clothing and accessories and through them tell part of your story.

    • jubilare

      It was really amazing, for me, to take time to consider what has happened in those ten years, not only to me and mine, but to the objects I had on me at the time. I can highly recommend it as a good way to slow down and reflect. You know, sometimes I feel that my life is so full of distractions and things to occupy my attention that I forget to be human. It’s good to take a break. :)

  • bryanajoy

    “…that so much has happened and not happened.”

    True that.

  • mjschneider

    As Sharon said, it’s really nice to put a face to the online pseudonym! I also tend to think that I’m not photogenic, but that’s mostly because photographs represent me quite accurately.

    I like your post interrogating changes of self and time, and I think it’s something everyone does when they see past portraits of themselves, though few do it quite so eloquently.

    Here’s to another decade!

    • jubilare

      The camera sees what it sees, which isn’t the same as what we see. My prof was fond of saying “the camera lies,” but what he really meant was that it’s range of vision is far narrower than ours. In some ways, this helps catapult photography past documentation and into the realm of art. The danger is assuming that what we see in a picture is what we would see with our own two eyes.

      So, the camera never has and never will capture us as we are seen by ourselves and each other. In the hands of a truly skilled photographer, we can get close to an accurate portrait, but it takes skill (or luck) to coax it out.

      Here’s to another decade for all of us! And good decades too, I hope.

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