“Post a photo of you when you were 20,” it said.
I didn’t have any online. So I went home and I looked through some of my photo albums, particularly the one I put together from when I was in college, trying to find a photo of just me at age 20.
I didn’t have any. The only photos of me at 20 (and there were only a few) had other people in them.
But in looking through the album, I found a few photos that tell a story of my college experience, something I don’t think I’ve written much about before. It’s amazing what sorts of memories come back when you look a a photo for a little while.
I also found it interesting how few photos I had at all. The first digital cameras were just barely out while I was in college, remember, the ones that used floppy disks? And then for a while you could get your film developed into photos and also put on a floppy? I didn’t get a digital camera until – 2004? Before that, I never took a lot of photos unless I was on a big trip, because of the cost of film and the cost of film development. Consequently, I don’t have a lot of photos from the pre-digital age. When I did take photos, they were normally photos of my friends, my college boyfriend, pretty stuff I saw – rarely did someone offer to take a photo of me.
Dan was kind enough to scan the photos of me last night (and alter one of them). Here they are, for your viewing pleasure.
This photo was taken on a camping trip. My college boyfriend and our friends and I went on a lot of camping trips to a campground at the Sonoma County coast when we were in college. I had thought that this was taken when I was 19, but in looking at the date on the back, I was actually 18. This means that we went on this trip either at the end of my freshman or beginning of my sophomore year.
That summer in between those years was the only summer I moved home. I worked at the Boys and Girls club in the art room for part of the day, helping kids do art projects and supervising field trips and catching all kinds of germs (including some crazy infection in my mouth that brought me to a doctor, a dentist, and an oral surgeon, one of whom eventually concluded that it was an adult-version of some kind of illness that almost everybody gets when they’re a little kid, and is hardly noticable then, but when you get it as an adult it sucks ass. I couldn’t eat anything, hardly, for a few weeks.) The other part of the day I was teaching swimming lessons, life guarding, and working the cash register (taking admission and selling concessions) at the community pool.
I was really lonely that summer, because College Boyfriend and his brother got it in their heads that they’d go up to Alaska and work on a fishing boat. They didn’t find any work on a boat, but camped out all summer and worked in some fish processing plant. Most of my friends were either still in Berkeley for the summer or (the ones from my hometown that weren’t Berkeley students) working their own summer jobs. College Boyfriend and I wrote a lot of letters back and forth and talked on the phone a couple of times, when he could scrounge up enough change to call me.
It was also hard coming home, having been independent for nearly a year, to the same family dynamic of being considered a kid. I didn’t even have a room anymore, since Lissa had moved into my old room, so I had a lofted bed and one drawer in Laurel’s room, with the rest of my stuff in the garage. Mostly I felt inconvenient and in the way.
College Boyfriend came home earlier than he’d anticipated, so the summer got a little bit better toward the end. Maybe that’s when this photo was taken. In it, I’m holding a book I read the entire trip, and probably feeling gross and unwashed. And fat. However, as you can see, I was really, really skinny, so I don’t know what the hell I was thinking.
I was 20 in this photo, one of the few photos I have of me at age 20. The other person in the photo, obscured by a Guy Fawkes mask thanks to Dan, was my friend and coworker from what is still probably my favorite job I have ever had. For about half of college, I worked for the on-campus notetaking service as a notetaker and an editor (meaning I fixed mistakes in other people’s notes as well). The hourly pay was really good for a campus job and the hours were really flexible; I could come in for an hour at a time in between classes if I wanted. I was good at the work, both at the notetaking part and the editing part, and the other people who were editors were all really cool. We became pretty good friends. The particular friend in this photo went on to have a semi-successful career as a singer-songwriter.
I think this is one of my favorite photos ever taken of me. I look happy, and somehow, miraculously, my skin looks pretty good. And damn, I was still really skinny. I still have (and wear) that tank top, a gift College Boyfriend brought me back from China, but there’s no way I could squeeze myself into those pants these days, even if I still had them.
I was in a good place in my life, in this photo. It was my senior year of college, and College Boyfriend and I had broken up (for the better, in the long run, though the breakup itself was horrible). I was happy in my job, happy in my classes, working on my senior thesis. I was planning my trip to Europe. No wonder I look so happy!
As happy (and damn, talk about skinny!) as I look in this photo, I really wasn’t. This was taken in Santa Barbara when I visited College (now-ex)Boyfriend during my spring break my senior year. He’d transferred there to finish his degree in religious studies and while I missed him, I was finally getting to the point where I was moving on, though we still had a lot of mutual friends and stayed pretty close. Scarlett and her boyfriend at the time were going to Santa Barbara that weekend for a wedding, so I hitched a ride with them to go down and visit him. It was a mistake. He was really pushy, wanted to do things that I didn’t want to do, and seeing him really confused me. It took us nearly a year after we broke up, all told, before we finally muddled our way through the other side and became Just Friends, and me going to see him for this particular visit made things worse. It was late March or early April of 2000, and I had just turned 21.
I look at this photo and can’t believe that person was me. She doesn’t look much like me now, at least body-wise (I’ve got about 20 pounds of muscle, 10 pounds of other stuff, and 2 cup sizes on her), and she was really unhappy when that photo was taken. We were headed toward the beach (hence the bathing suit under my top) and College Ex caught me at a silly moment. It was never as easy being silly around him as I wanted it to be. When we were together, I never felt good enough or secure in our relationship; he always wanted me to be skinnier and made me feel bad when I disagreed about a particular opinion or point of philosophy. Probably the best part of that trip was when I got to Santa Barbara but while he was still in class, when I sat in the Student Center and worked on my thesis, gazing out on the ocean, smelling the southern California coast. I enjoyed the stroll on the beach that happened right after this photo was taken, but as usual I was really self-conscious of my body and doubly so because I was with my ex.
Huh, this was pretty interesting. Maybe I’ll scan some more photos and turn this into an ongoing series.