Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Hiding: Photographic evidence

I was sure I had left it there - in an Office Depot paper box, tucked in the attic of our first apartment - three moves ago. Tucked inside the box, underneath my old clips from college and other papers I had saved but didn't need access to.

I had never cleared out that space when we excitedly moved from the 600-square-foot space into a two-bedroom, 1,100-square-foot apartment that felt like home. And I regretted it for much of five years.

Then came the text, out of the blue, from my sister-in-law. She had been cleaning out my brother's foot locker and had found my pictures from Jerusalem. The photos that were taken on a once-in-a-lifetime trip in 2001 - before Facebook, before MySpace, before my first digital camera. The 4-by-6 prints were the only record of my trip.

My brother delivered them to me this weekend, and it was with much excitement that I flipped through the pages.

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Church of the Holy Sepulcher.

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The Dead Sea. I can still feel myself floating on the salty water and the rough, rocky bed underneath my feet.

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The memories of the beautiful, exotic place flooded my brain but the one thing I couldn't see was me. I wasn't there - not in my photos of Tel Aviv or the Golan Heights. There wasn't a snapshot at the top of Masada or one of my toes into the Mediterranean Sea. I would like to say it's because I hadn't been trained by social media that a selfie at every stop was necessary but I'd be lying. I didn't take photos because I didn't want to see what I looked like.

I was acutely aware that I was not skinny, not even average, when I boarded the plane to New York and then Tel Aviv. The seat belt was tight and I could feel all 230 pounds of me spilling underneath the arm rest. It was uncomfortable but expected.

What wasn't expected was the negative comments about my weight from another student on the tour, which was for college newspaper editors and sponsored by Project Interchange. We were in one of the hotel rooms in Jerusalem, on the first leg of the trip, and watching TV. I made a comment about Beyonce, he made a comment about me. One was complimentary, the other was not. And so for the rest of the trip, I was hyper self conscious. More uncomfortable and self aware than ever. It was bad enough that I brought in the rear on the ascent up Masada - I didn't need a picture of it.

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I allowed two pictures on the trip - both group. One was at the top of Jerusalem and the other with a group of Israeli soldiers in Netanya. In doing so, I chose to be absent. From my own memories.

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It wasn't the first time I let my own insecurities get in the way but I am hoping it will be the last. My challenge to you is to make the same pledge. To never let the present affect your ability to look back and move forward.


  1. What an amazing trip! I am sorry someone's comment made you feel awful for a lot of it :(

  2. Aside from an asshat's comment, that trip sounds like the trip of a lifetime! I firmly believe that people who feel they have the right to put others down, do so because of something missing in themselves. It's a very sad and pathetic trait. I also think that whoever said words will never hurt is full of shit.

  3. I understand 100% how you felt then - I still feel that way and there are very few pics of me from when my kids were little because I didn't want to be photographed. I'm still not crazy about full length shots but I'm trying.

  4. Thanks so much for being real, Kim. And thanks for the inspiration.