I turned 45 this month. Over the past couple weeks, I’ve asked myself a crucial question several times: are you old enough to withstand seeing yourself as other people see you?
I admit that this question is a bit strange, but it is in my nature to wonder over such oddball notions. When I was a child, I wished and wished that I could shrink myself small enough to fit inside my toy shopping cart, just to see the world like my stuffed animals did as I walked them down the street in that cart. I imagined that I could have heard their soft banter had I been their size.
For all that we share selfies and short updates about daily life, are we any more efficient at conveying our selves to the world than we were before the internet existed as we now know it?
Think of the sense we gain of someone by watching that person enter a room or move down the street. When I look at the online profiles of my friends and family, I’ve hardly ever seen such footage, and I hadn’t thought to share such moments online until today.
This afternoon I remembered what the world was like when I became an adult in the early 90’s. The options in communicating over a distance with a kindred spirit were limited. Long distance telephone calls were pricey, so like many of my generation, I’d record mix tapes and write letters packed with inside jokes.
Back then, I could not have imagined what it would be like to have a real-time, multimedia communication device at my disposal. If smartphones had materialized back in the early 90’s, I’d have wanted to see ordinary moments of those who were and still are dear to me.
I remember being 19 years old and living 600 miles away from my mother. How delightful it would have been to watch a video of her lighting a cigarette in the morning and sipping her coffee.
Why is that we have this technology at our disposal but it is so seldom used in this way? Is movement reserved as that last shred of privacy in lives lived ever increasingly online?
I set up my tripod in my backyard after I returned home from work this afternoon. I wondered if I could stand to see myself walk across the yard. Believe it or not, if you haven’t seen a video of yourself walking before, the experience is just as jarring as hearing your recorded voice for the first time. Both experiences beg two questions: Is that really me? and How much do I like that person?
In seeing my video, I had to confront how I felt about myself. At first, I recoiled at the sight of it. Then I considered that my distaste was not a reflection of reality but of how I perceived myself. When I go about the business of daily living, people don’t react to me like I am a bloated absurdity come to life, and the odds are slim indeed that most people I encounter are wearing a poker face until I am out of sight.
I rewatched the video with the thought: imagine that you are watching somebody’s mother, daughter, wife, or best friend. Then I realized that I was doing just that. The people who are dearest to me don’t love me in spite of how I look, sound, and move. They love me in part because of those things.
I share this because the same thing is true of you, dear reader. At this moment, there are people in your life who would love to see moments of your life today as you lived them. Will you let them see you, or will you wait until some perfect moment in the future, when your hair, clothes, and size have reached some mythical standard?
There is no reason to wait, for you are already perfect enough for those who love you.
Here is my video: