For the longest time I was afraid of people. As I get older, I realize that’s a pretty common experience for most.
There’s always been a part of me obsessed with finding out everyone’s backstory, their personal history. When you look at me, you see a very white, pleasant girl. I made it my goal to find a way to shut out all my history and just live in the present. It’s really hard to dwell, seeing as all it does it taint your experiences with everyone around you. You can’t see past the fog of your own problems.
When I write short stories and other things, I always try to explain away the reasons that people act the way they do, make up reasons for why they might be acting standoffish, why they feel the need to make everything into a joke, how I might do some of the same things to protect myself. I like to make everything a joke, but I’m also incredibly sensitive. Especially when it comes to anything creative.
In psychology, I’ve heard about the famous comfort test. Where they took two baby primates and tested whether they desired comfort in the form of a mesh mother, covered in soft material, or a hard wired mother without the soft fabric, that held a bottle full of milk. The baby monkeys reached over and drank the milk off the hard-wire mother while they clung to the soft material of the other wire frame.
I know there are a lot of things I will never understand. I’ve never had someone there to teach me how to wear make up, so I don’t wear any. I’ve never understood people who can touch others without thinking twice, even if it’s just a brush against the shoulder. It took me forever to understand that a hug when you’re sad was a good thing. It doesn’t help that my dad isn’t an overly affectionate person. When I turned 13, he stopped ruffling my hair or touching my shoulder, suddenly afraid that I’d think he was weird if he showed me affection.
For years I thought he didn’t love me because I could count on a hand how many times he’d hugged me in a year. I couldn’t remember the last time he’d held me when I cried. I couldn’t remember the last hair ruffle because it’d been so many years since.
My mother told me it was a generation gap and that the way he expressed himself was through providing for his family. I don’t think he understands how to get close to people either. It took me years to comprehend how much like him I am even if he claims I’m a clone of my mom.
My mother was shipped off to live with her grandparents in Indiana when she was four years old and yet my grandmother chose to keep her younger sister and older brother with her. My mom got pregnant at fifteen with a half black child and was effectively cast out of her religious and racist household in Indiana, forcing her to move to California to live with my grandpa who had a crazy new wife and evil stepchildren. She broke into those storage cabinets that hang in apartment garages with her newborn baby, my brother, until she found a safe haven with his dad’s family. She did a lot of drugs, was very violent, and completely unstable.
I could keep going, and there’s really so much more I could say to explain away her actions, make excuses for her being so selfish and so ungrateful for the awesome life she once had. I could fill you in on her backstory to make you see.
The adage, “a picture says a million words” isn’t why I love photography as an artistic medium. I love the kind of photos that make you wonder why. They make you wonder where the person came from to make them like that. It encourages you to see their story.
I used to let the fear of loss consume me, fill me up with anxiety and worry and regret all the moments I couldn’t control. I felt like I needed to give her back as much of the time she lost as I could. So now, I freeze as much time as I can for her. I document my life and the people I come across so that when she gets out, I can sit down with her, in a room that isn’t grey and filled with other inmates or guards, where people aren’t counting the minutes they have left with their loved ones, and I can actually show her the life I’ve lead.
So it’s strange to realize that even after all my work to shut out my history, all roads just lead me back where I’m forced to acknowledge that my history does not only define me, it empowers me.