oh, that photo...

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Another blog entry, another week finished.

It's kind of falling into that routine. Where I find myself on a lazy evening during the course of my weekend where I get a chance to write. Not write a paper, which I've done three of in the past 24 hours, but just write

This kind of writing is so different. It's not academic. It's me, tilting my head and slowly draining thoughts and feelings out of my ear, feeling my fingers glide over my keyboard as I create posts that have no direction or topic until I actually find myself in the process of it. But seriously, I never really have a plan when I decide I need to blog. Usually I figure something out in the first couple paragraphs...something that has been on my mind during the week, something that catches my eye, a song that plays on my pandora station, anything. 

Tonight, that thing is photographs. 

If there is one that I think every college student has in their dorm, one thing that can be as huge as a complete wall or, or as small as a single frame on a desk, that thing is photographs. It was the first thing I packed when I was preparing to leave to Santa Barbara my freshman year, trying to preserve my life back home in photographs that I would stick up all over my dorm room. 

Three years later and some things haven't changed. 

Granted, those photographs are not the same. In fact, for the first time, my bulletin board of photographs doesn't have any photos from high school on it. I noticed that this week, as I laid my head on my desk, exhausted from another evening of homework and studying, and found myself surveying the photos I chose to put up on my framed cork board that has the prestigious spot on my wall above my desk. 

They are all fairly recent. Most of them from the summer of 2010 onwards. A lot from my semester abroad. A lot from my summers at camp. A ton from my first two years at Westmont. A lot of different moments in time, captured on a camera and now forever ingrained in my memory, thanks to a 3x5 piece of photo paper. Even as I write this post, I'm looking over those photographs held up by pushpins, smiling faces and beautiful sights, each one important to me in some way, shape, or form. Some make me laugh, some make me cringe a little, some twist my stomach in an odd way, some make me sit back, sigh, and think "That was a ridiculously good time."

Some photographs are really important to me. I have two special ones that each get their own frame on my desk, of friendships that I really, really, appreciate. People I deeply and truly care for. There is a line of photographs on my mirror that make me smile. I like to look at them in the morning when I am sleepy, tired, usually irritated and itching to crawl back into bed. They help me get my mornings started right.

There are more public photographs that I've displayed. People come in and those are the first ones they see, and usually they ask about them. They want to hear the stories behind them. 

That's the kicker about photographs, each one has a story. Sometimes they are really simple, like Oh that's a photo last Halloween. We got slushies after the dance finished. Sometimes they need a little more. That's a photo from my friend's wedding. I was one of her bridesmaids, she was my camp counselor when I was in the 4th grade, and basically became my sister in high school. She's great. Sometimes, photographs have really long stories tied to them. Stories that don't need to be told when someone sees that photograph and asks about it. But they are stories regardless.

Photos that can literally take you back in time, put you in a situation you thought you forgot, make you feel things you haven't felt since, well...that photo was taken. I don't keep those photos up in public. I don't like to display them because then my mind is consumed whenever I see them. I don't like to tell those stories, but I don't want to forget the memories which they represent.

I only have a few of those photos here at Westmont. A couple are stuck in my smile file, and one is tucked away in the back of my journal. I pull them out and visit those times when I have the available space to do so. It takes control of my emotions, all of sudden the walls of my dorm room are stripped away and Westmont fades into whatever place that photo represents. 

I had one of those moments during this week. It was late in the evening, I was preparing to go to bed, mentally and physically exhausted after another long day. It fell out of my journal as I was straightening up my room, something unexpected, but something that came at exactly the right time. I picked it up and glanced at it for a long time. I smiled, because I love the people in that photograph. I love the friendships, the memories, and the story God is writing in all of our lives. But I don't love how we've changed. How we've grown apart, lost that part of ourselves that was so present in that photo. I don't love how we don't live near each other. I don't love how much I miss all of them. I suppose I can be to blame for leaving, but they left first - maybe not physically, but it still stings. It went on and on like this for a while, sitting at my desk, turning this photo over and over in my hands, going far back into the depth of my mind and memory, unlocking vaults I had thought I had closed forever. 

I went to bed very overwhelmed that night.

I didn't think a photograph had that power. That strength to make me lie awake in bed, staring at my ceiling while trying to run back through the time-space-continuum to present day. I tried so hard to get back to now, to make sure I had my feet back on solid ground at Westmont before I fell asleep. And I couldn't. I remember pressing the palms of my hands into my eyes, gripping my hairline, trying so desperately to just fall asleep and stop dwelling on that photograph. I was fighting the urge to curl back up into that comfortable memory, because to be honest, history isn't going to repeat itself. Living in the past isn't going to change my future. It was a moment of vulnerability, when I realized that I'm not strong all the time, and I finally let myself go. I let myself run back into the arms of that memory, I (literally) curled up in my bed and let myself fall asleep to something warm and comfortable, joyful and worthwhile, something that is completely contained in a worn out photograph tucked into the back of my journal.

I freakin' love photographs. 

I woke up the next day, to the obnoxious sounds of my iPhone alarm bright and early for class, rolled out of bed and began my morning. It wasn't until I was pouring granola over my greek yogurt that I remembered the photograph. I sat back in my chair, took a deep breath, and did the only thing I know how to do when my soul is overwhelmed. I prayed.

I thanked God for our friendships. For the years of memories. I prayed for them, each individually. I prayed for myself. I thanked God for everything he's done for us. I prayed for our futures together. That  God would keep us connected, but if for some reason we aren't meant to be, that I would be at peace with that situation. I prayed that my soul would stop feeling overwhelmed. 

Photographs are such interesting things.
I've learned a lot about them this week, and I've gone back in time to a lot of different memories with various ones.

Take a moment to find a photograph that you love (or maybe hate). Go back in time to that space. That year. That moment. That instance. Let yourself dive fully back into that photo. What it represents. What it means. Don't fight it. It's not worth it. Let yourself be fully enveloped by the feelings you were experiencing then. What you were thinking. What you were hoping for, if anything at all.

You just might find yourself smiling at the end.

Thinking, oh, that photo...
Yes, that photo.

The one you tuck away in the corner of you life, because even though you aren't in the midst of it anymore, you can't stand losing that memory forever.

Time travel back there often.
You won't regret it.

Respectfully submitted,