Today I got struck with the nostalgic and the sentimental. As I’ve been working to pack for my move to Japan, I’ve had the opportunity to go through those items that have been shut away in cupboards in boxes that haven’t been touched since they were placed there when I moved in almost five years ago.
First was the collection of cards given by friends and family and distant relatives over the course of my lifetime of Christmases and birthdays. Some warmed my heart, others made me chuckle, and still others brought tears to my eyes. I even happened across $30 tucked away unclaimed all this time! My greatest takeaway, however, as I went through the notes and messages written to me over the years, was that I have not at all gone without love. And I really wish to do something for all of the wonderful souls that have cared for me and given me their tender affection and encouragement all this time.
My reflections took a slightly different turn as I started to go through the pictures and albums that I’ve collected depicting my childhood’s fondest memories. Of course I was struck by the bittersweetness of looking back at those sweet times that I perhaps long to experience once more, to get a chance to really appreciate them. But I also took a close look at myself in the different stages of growing up, and the thing that stood out to me most was how uninhibited I was in my expressions. I grinned, sometimes cheesily, but always sincerely. And what strikes me is how pure and beautiful I was. Not “beautiful” in the attractive sense, but in the way that a child outwardly expressing their spontaneous joy without self-consciousness is a wholly pleasant sight. But now, try to catch a picture of me and I’ll either run and hide, or spend my time focusing on carefully fixing my features into the most flattering configuration. And yet, I’m never satisfied when I see myself–now not only do I feel unattractive, but I despise that dull, insincere grimace-like attempt at a coy smile that won’t make my eyes look too beady or my cheeks too puffy.
And it might sound cliche to say so, but I realized today what showing your inner beauty really means. Self-consciousness will never bring satisfaction. Age didn’t turn me into an unphotogenic hag by any means, but I let my fear of appearing unattractive hold me back from experiencing the same kind of joy in events and excursions the same way I did as a child. And that’s simply sad.
What’s even more important to realize is that someone takes a picture of us not to hear us bitch and moan about how ugly we feel, because the truth is that more than likely they don’t see us that way at all. More often than not, they are seeing our inner beauty, and that’s what prompted them to take our photo in the first place. It’s selfish to deny someone the opportunity to immortalize a moment with a photograph for their own memory’s sake.
So I plan to work to cast away my self-consciousness; to lose myself in the enjoyment of the present moment; to let my picture be taken because chances are good in the future I’ll see that photo and happily remember the circumstances around it, and not care a bit how I look anyway.