Scanning all of my photos took a long, long time. A daunting task, to be sure – there were hundreds and hundreds of prints that needed to be identified and filed. It couldn’t be done all at once – a few days here, a few days there.
I started with pictures from college – and I was overwhelmed. The years flew by as each photo digitized on my computer, not unlike how life is – in a flash, a moment is gone. What mad me sad for my younger self in all those photos was how much prettier I was than I ever believed at the time.
Looking at a photo here, a photo there, we all bemoan the loss of our unlined skin, our shiny (naturally colored) hair, our bright, clear gazes and firm young bodies. But try doing it like this – try spending a couple of days looking at yourself over and over, on a big, clear computer monitor. See the sparkle in your eye, the youth and spirit that went unappreciated at the time. Look for the girl you once believed you were, the girl who was maybe insecure, or self-loathing, possibly hypercritical and most likely terrified. Look closely, and you’ll find she isn’t there. In those pictures of you, of me, of all of us, is the girl the world saw when they looked our way – not who we saw ourselves to be. Look harder – and still, she won’t be there. She won’t be there because she only existed in our minds – the worst version of you, of me, the one who’s heart got broken, who felt so much. Who couldn’t have imagined where she’d be now.
I wanted to reach out to that girl – the younger me – I wanted to tell her to stop, just stop. Stop the self-doubt, stop being fearful and unsure. Let go of all of the bad stuff that’s in your head. See beyond your small universe. It was ok to say what you thought, act as you wanted, be who you really were. The people that liked you would like you for exactly those things. Be happy, be pretty, be confident and optimistic. Be yourself, your best self.
In other words, be who you are now, now that the lines have appeared, the body is a little droopy, the hair graying under the expertly applied color. Now that you’ve lived a long time and know what beautiful really means, can recognize it in the faces of the people you love, from eight to ninety-eight – can even, sometimes, see it in the reflection in the mirror.
Wouldn’t that be such a gift, to be able to go back and tell your younger self how lovely you really were? And you were lovely. I’m sure of it.
So today, if you’re 54, like I am, or thirty, or sixty-five or I don’t know, a hundred and two – look at yourself in a mirror today and say “you are a beautiful woman.” Because twenty-five years from now, you’ll be looking back at pictures of yourself from today, this month, this year, and saying “I was beautiful then.” And you will be right.