Monday, September 19, 2011

Looking at Old High School Photos


A lot of us who grew up before the age of the digital camera grasped early on the value of a photograph. Film was expensive so it was used sparingly. A picture, however bad, always told two stories: the one that happened in front of the camera, and the one that happened behind it. A picture of you meant someone valued you enough to preserve your likeness. A picture is the holy relic of that moment in time that's now forever gone. A picture is our way of both denying and preparing for our inescapable return to inexistence. The older the picture, the more you will value it and wish there were more of it.

Looking at pictures put up on my high school class's Facebook group evoked a legion of emotions in me. Suddenly, I remembered these people for who they were as kids and how I felt about them as a kid. The rational part of me knows that the adult versions I see and very rarely interact with even on Facebook are as far from these teenaged versions as I now am from mine. A lot of them have kids. A lot of them have reinvented themselves, for good or ill. All of them have found their place in this world, whether they like it or not. The circumstances that caused them to do the things they once did--which, in turn, caused me to be friends with them, or to loathe them, or to love them--these are long gone by now, as are the things I once felt about these people. The world has moved on since then and we have all moved on with it. Yet the old pictures' power to resurrect these emotions just shows me how much of what I am today was the result of those four short years of wrestling with my hormones, of discovering my identity, of forming my philosophies, and of maneuvering through teenage politics.

I suppose, we all have those bad high school memories hiding like thieves in our brains and waiting to pounce upon us when we least expect them. High school is the kingdom of extroverts and brutes. Those of us who were more inclined to looking inward didn't go far up the food chain unless we totally denied who we were and became cool. No one ever told us that we shouldn't sweat it because it's just four years and the rest of our lives would be spent with people who actually like us for who we are. I think I survived high school because I didn't give too much of a fuck if I was the weird kid who wrote book reports for money and painted skulls on his pants. If I can't be cool I would embrace weirdness, I thought. I'm now 36 years old and I still wear my hair long and paint my nails black and wear skull T-shirts to work. Yeah, I embraced the weirdness alright.

And life goes on.

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