My best friend is always trying to take pictures with me. Poor guy. That’s an endeavour I will almost always botch. I don’t get pictures. I don’t know why people insist on capturing moments. Can’t we just enjoy them and save them in our heads? The irony is, I don’t want him to ever stop trying to take pictures with me. I realise that is selfish; to subject a guy to mild forms of embarrassments every time he puts a camera in front of my face, but hear me out. I know pictures have no intrinsic value (as my friend put it), and maybe that’s why people take lots of them, because it’s no big deal. However, every time my best friend tries to take a picture of me, I want to believe that he treasures that moment and he would like to freeze it and have something to remember it by(To him it’s probably just a picture, nothing deep.) So call me selfish but I find the thought that he would stop wanting to freeze pieces of the moments that we spend together a bit alarming. And that right there is the paradox; me attaching so much sentiment to a gesture whose expression I don’t really understand, let alone care for.
That got me thinking about my phobia of pictures. Why is it that I don’t like taking pictures? Could it be for reasons as vain as not wanting to take a bad picture and have this eternal reminder of that one time I spent a fraction of my life looking ugly, terrifying people with my face? Maybe that was true a couple of years ago. These days, I adore my reflection in the mirror even on my worst days. Or maybe that is the problem, the image I have of myself in my head is so good, no camera could ever capture it. And when I say good, I do not mean superficial beauty. My friend says that’s a genetic lottery, no one deserves it. And I agree. There is so much more to people than the symmetry of their faces. If we take pictures of the moments we are proud of, then something as simple as a pleasant face that you were lucky enough to be born with shouldn’t be on that list. It really isn’t an accomplishment.
I go to school in this dusty, sunny, miserable little town. This town is half stressed out, drunk and/or high college students and half motorists constantly asking you if they can take you somewhere. I find the latter funny, because more often than not, I’m always dying to go somewhere; anywhere else. Half the reason I always have my earphones plugged in is to distract myself from this apathy. The other half is people. I feel like I would commit suicide if I had to be constantly aware of this reality.
On my way to and from class, I have to walk past this group of motorists. I notice that one of these motorists never asks if he can take me somewhere. I never thought much of it at first. I just assumed he was one of the very few people left who are respectful of other people’s spaces. Eventually, it began to worry me. This is his living. Why is he not as aggressive as the rest? Why is he so calm? Before I knew it, I was actively looking for him every time I passed there. Studying his facial expression, his body language, trying to figure out why he is so different from the others. Surely, he has to know something that the others don’t. Or he could be sick and dying. I don’t know. Granted, I didn’t find out anything about him (I’m not Sherlock Holmes.) I did notice however, that he always seemed distracted, like he was never really aware of his surroundings. And on the occasions that he wasn’t in his head, he was busy doing something else; like talking to someone or eating or fixing his motorbike, anything but asking people if he can take them somewhere. I think I began to relate to him. Here is someone who seems to spend his days distracted or being an oddity. That is kind of my story. So you can imagine how surprised I was this one time I saw him laughing. He was laughing so hard, I was scared he’d fall off his bike. It was the happiest I’d seen him in months. This is weird as hell but I was so proud, I wanted to take a picture. It literally was the first time in years I have wanted to take a picture of anything.
I once read this article about things that make you feel good about yourself. On that list, was take a lot of pictures. I do not understand this at all. Somebody explain it to me, how is taking a picture of yourself, especially when you are feeling down going to improve your mood. Essentially, all you’re doing is documenting a phase of your life that sucks. How is that helpful? Anyway, people seem to agree with this premise so I’m just going to shelf it with other arguments that I vehemently disagree with. An example would be the phrase, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” How is that even true? There is no way that something that could have killed you leaves you stronger. It just has to weaken you. Otherwise it wasn’t that serious. But that is an argument for another day.
But every once in a while I try to explain the urge to take that motorist’s picture. Me relating to him aside and thereby treating his happiness to be my own by extension aside, I wanted him to always have a reminder of how happy he looked. I wanted him to put that picture on his bedside table. I wanted him to wake up every day and look at that picture and strive to be happy like that. I wanted him to look at that picture on the nights he’s had an awful day and remember that despondence isn’t permanent. I wanted to give him hope. I wanted him to know he can be happy like that again and again; all he needs to do is find a really good joke.
And so maybe when I say I don’t like pictures, maybe it’s just selfies and all other forms of pictures that require you to be aware when they are taken. Because I wouldn’t mind having a freeze frame of the moments I’m happiest. I believe, the moments we’re happiest, the moment’s we’re most beautiful are the moments we’re being ourselves the most, the moment’s we feel most in love with ourselves. When we are laughing at a terrible pun, or helping an elderly person cross the road. The moments we’ve forgotten about the acne on our face or the size of our butt; the moments we’re least aware of our insecurities, when our brains aren’t reminding us of our failures. My best friend took this picture of me in a supermarket holding this teddy bear. It’s not even the best picture anyone has ever taken of me, for one you can barely see my face and I look like I have no butt, but I love that picture. Because in that moment, it was just me, happy with a cuddly toy and a friend who cared enough to hand me that moment. And I think that is what pictures should do. Selfies on the other hand, require you to get out of that moment, and make a face or a force a smile for the camera. It just ruins the moment. They make us aware of our terrible reality. And it doesn’t matter how convincing your forced smile is, every time you look at that picture, you’ll always remember you were failing math in the moment it was taken.
And maybe that is my fear. To look at a picture and think I’m not good enough. To have this frozen reminder of a time when I wasn’t the person I’m working towards being. I know it’s not a healthy way to perceive things, but my brain already is on overdrive, I don’t want to give it one more thing to obsess on.