I remember being at my Aunt Beanie’s house several years ago, right before she died. I was milling around the living room looking at the artwork, and the pictures displayed on the baby grand piano that was once my grandmother’s. I was mesmerized by the beautiful wedding portrait of Beanie at age twenty-five and much less mesmerized by the 8×10 eighth grade school portrait of me. The offending photo was in a sterling silver frame and placed prominently on the piano. I said “Beanie may we please replace this photo of me? It’s hideous!” The bad hair, the braces, the yoke neck sweater, it was not my best effort. While she agreed the picture wasn’t great, she said she loved it and under no circumstance was I to change it. I asked her why she loved it so much and I’ll never forget her words. She said, “Because the photo is from a time before the world got to you.” Wow, that stopped me in my tracks! I looked at the photo again and she was right. There I was, my goofy grin, crazy hair and ugly sweater, innocent and naive. It was before the boy next door broke my heart, before a close friendship soured, before my parent’s temporary separation. It was the me that loved to make art, ride horses, read great books and whose enormous colonial style dollhouse was under constant renovation.
Not too long after that, my mother was cleaning out her home and giving some things away. She sent me a 3×5 picture of me at age 7 in a faded red velvet frame. This girl had an even crazier smile, another terrible haircut and this time I was wearing my favorite green and white striped turtleneck. I looked so happy and carefree in the picture; and I can remember I was. That little girl loved riding bikes, sleeping out under the stars, swimming, playing games, puppies, and making forts in the woods behind my house.
It got me thinking; what happened to those girls? And how can I get them back? I believe that when we are born we are closest to who we really are; and as time goes on, and if we are not consciously aware we can move really far from who we are at our core. Often we learn how to become insecure and not good enough. We want to blend in, not stand out. We grow up and come up against pressures we didn’t know existed and they take a toll on us. Some people don’t like the way we live or what we do. They criticize and we second guess ourselves. And all of this leads to quieting that little girl, that preteen girl. And it makes us unhappy.
I can’t say what made me think this, but when I was looking at 7 year old me, I said I want to be her. I want to go back to that happy, carefree girl. I didn’t know at the time when I spoke those words years ago that it would lead me on a journey back to myself. And like most journeys there were ups and downs, challenges and discoveries. I had to release all the blocks that kept me from her; hurts and disappointments among other things, and I had to rediscover and reconnect with the things I loved. After a while with great pleasure I did! And in the end I found her; and I celebrated her and I will never sacrifice her well being for anyone or anything ever again.
It’s time for a new photo in a new frame; me with a big grin but with great hair, wearing a fabulous blouse!