Yesterday, I took a photograph on my iPhone of a stack of polaroids I’ve taken recently and posted it on Instagram. It struck me immediately as an exercise in some sort of redundancy, a picture of some pictures, but I humored myself and let my Sunday morning dalliance in art monsterism slide. I captioned my post by saying I was thinking of all sorts of new formats for 2018. I do love the polaroid as a format — it is immediate, but cool in a way that a digital image isn’t and just can’t be, no matter the filter applied. I am no photographer and don’t know the science, but I have eyes and I see that the light is captured differently. And I do think of the polaroid as a harbinger to the instant gratification that is at our fingertips now — except — the images are not deletable. We cannot say that the captured moment didn’t exist just because we may not like it. We can throw away an image we find undesirable, but it will still exist somewhere, even in the trash.
This isn’t about digital versus analog. But what I am thinking of this morning is change, and how much we have to do with deciding what is kept and what is thrown away. I’ve changed so many times in my life I’ve spun my own head around, and not always by choice. It’s ultimately been a good practice, though, and I appreciate having honed the skill, because at this point, I find that I am able to adapt, to pivot, to make it work, whatever it is, most of the time. However, I am no shapeshifter. I am also blessed because there are parts of me that have been so forged in fire, they are as solid as steel. I think about what those things are. The things I like — such as my capacity for love, my curiosity and tendency to ask why, my strength — I hold close. The things that I consider less desirable — my sharp tongue, my impatience, my tendency to isolate in a bid for self-protection — I try to work on losing. But like the polaroid, even if I try to trash an undesirable image of some feature of my personality, it will still exist, somewhere, even if it’s been bagged up and ferried out to a waste dump barge.
Joan Didion said in her famous essay, On Keeping a Notebook, that, “I think we are well advised to keep on nodding terms with the people we used to be, whether we find them attractive company or not.” I suppose that has something to do with staying honest with yourself, not getting above your raising, keeping it real. Sometimes it’s interesting to go back to read an old journal or letter, just to remind yourself who you were, where you’ve been, and who you’ve become. Are we not all moving forward, whether we want to or not? It helps to keep perspective, to sometimes take in the broader picture while we do it.
In my constant quest for improving this or trying to keep up with that, I sometimes forget to keep perspective. So my desired format change for now is, as I realize I am looking at the end of what has been yet another rollicking year, to take things in as more of a whole, to consider every experience and every facet valuable, to quit trying so hard just to get to the next thing and make it all look like I planned it. Even if I don’t like something about where I’ve been, what I’ve done, or who I’ve become, those things can’t be discarded and shouldn’t be. A format is how something is arranged, how something is presented, or made available, right? So ultimately, I have to think that how I feel about something is all about the light in which I see it.