The Truth in Old Photos

It is revealing to see old photos. After decades one can watch them almost as an outsider, while it is otherwise impossible to dive in the past as it was. You only know it through your emotional memories. The photos are revealing a frozen past.

Just few days ago my mother and aunt were looking for a photo for my cousin of my granny’s house. At the same time she flipped through a lot of photos where I was as well. I have heard that in some therapies they use photos to raise feelings and make people look their past differently. Photos may reveal things of our past relationships we are not consciously aware of.

In my childhood I was rather bookish and not among “the bold and beautiful”. I red a lot and was often deep in the imaginary world they draw. Somehow I thought I looked like a grey mouse too. I was told in my teens by a handsome boy that I was ugly. It left an awkward notion of my self. I wonder how much it has affected to my self image. In certain age being normal is so precious, like Astrid Lingren said with the mouth of Britt-Marie, her teenage girl heroine. She said that is nice to have particular beauty, but it is less nice to have particularly ugly mole in your nose. I often felt I did not belong.

When I was watching the old photos, I wondered why I had not seen what they could tell me before. Those photos revealed a young girl, who was rather pretty, slim and above all very normal. There has been people, who have told me that I am normal, but I’ve had hard time believing.  When I saw those photos now I was surprised what l saw. Even if the girl in the photos was not a great beauty, I felt sorry I did not understand this already years ago. It could have made me understand a lot of things.

I think it was Danish Philosopher Søren Kierkegaard, who said that although we understand the life backwards, we must live it forward. The revealing moments of truth crash over the reality occasionally, but always what seems too late. It is like remembering that you forgot your keys home, just after the door was locked. One cannot change the situation any more, but one can only hope to have learned the lesson.

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8 Responses

  1. When you ask people about their old pictures, I’ve noticed that they will reply they don’t like them. I’m no exception to that. Recently, on facebook, one of my friends put pictures of us when we were in elementary school. Everyone commented negatively on them, saying that haircuts, clothes, expressions, … were horrible. Like you wrote, we must live forward. Even though I sometimes have a hard time with my life, I do enjoy it more than when I was younger. Maybe it’s because when you’re younger, you don’t fully realize.

  2. I had the same kind of experience. I was told I was ugly by my brothers and sister, and that stayed with me. Looking at the pictures of when I was a child and adolescent, I wasn’t that bad at all. I was so lovely and sad. I never married, I never had a proper boyfriend, I am still thinking that if I was prettier I would have someone. Still I look around to so many not so pretty wives and keep asking myself: what do they have that I don’t have? Everyone got married, the stupid, the intelligent, the mentally unstable, the pretty, the not so pretty, the rude, the physically violent, the emotionally violent, the great ones, the bad ones, everyone. Some divorced too. Some remarried. I missed it and I still don’t perfectly know why. I might be in denial, but still it doesn’t make sense.

  3. Modobs: I have also thought the old photos are awful, so I was a bit surprised to see something else. Maybe it is because I was not very fashionable – the girl in the pictures could be of any age with her traditional long hair (I insisted) and skirts.

    Joanne: It is hard to question yourself that much. I’ve been doing the same for years, but I’ve found that it only makes me sad and angry. Life does not always make sense, but I wonder if it is really too late for you.

  4. Great observations. I especially love the quote at the end about how we can understand life backwards, but we must live forwards. Remember, although we may only understand our lessons now, we are making the transition…. we are learning, improving, and looking ahead to the future. Though time lost may never be regained, the future becomes more precious and promising with each second during which we continue to learn from the past.

    I think learning from the past is never really over. It’s a continual process… and as long as we don’t get caught up in the past, as long as we apply our lessons to the PRESENT, life just gets better and better.

    Btw, You have a wonderful writing style.

  5. Yes – happily life is about progress and hopefully getting wiser.

    Thank you for your nice words. [Blushing].

  6. I also love the quote at the end. I always look at older photos of myself and think, “I look so good there!” even though at the time, I felt I didn’t look good. It IS interesting that viewing photos from the past is an eye-opener that the time you are living in now will eventually be looked on with nostalgia or a different perception of who you thought you were.
    It kind of makes me appreciate “now” a little more. Knowing someday, I’ll look back on my big collection of photos thinking how much better I looked then, and how much fun I was actually having in that moment. So, why shouldn’t I appreciate it now. I try to!

  7. PS-my insecurities are never ever validated by the people I love. They seem to see the person I see right now, but I have to look to the past to see it. Also makes me think I should appreciate my present time more.

  8. You’re right Ryssee, we can only live in present, but sometimes it is still quite confusing. I wonder if we should try to feel comfortable with the insecurity and obscurity of the life as it is now.

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