Monday, November 15, 2010

Flaws, Being Thankful, and Inspiration

On a trip to NY last year, we walked through a few photography exhibits at the Met. Robert Frank's The Americans still remains fresh in my mind. It's a beautiful series of photos shot all across the country of American society in the 1950s. I also remember seeing a gallery of self portrait photography, and one picture in particular that inspired me. It inspired me so much that I don't even remember the name of the photographer (whoops)....I remember taking a picture of the little blurb about her so I wouldn't forget, but I came home from the trip and could not find the photo anywhere on my memory card. I must have erased it by accident. A heavy search on the Met's website of recent galleries, as well as dozens of crazy google searches came up useless and to this day, I cannot find this anonymous female photographer that I admire and am inspired by. AFP (anonymous female photographer) had a self portrait on display. It was a very close up, very simple black and white shot, showcasing her extremely long and crooked nose and big ears. If I remember correctly, it was framed just to include her neck up to her ears. Nothing more, nothing less (like a reverse eyes without a face). AFP had written that as far back as she could remember, she hated her nose and ears. She was picked on by everyone from peers to family members, and grew up anticipating the day she could get a nose job. In the end, AFP was unable to get the surgery, and eventually came to terms with her "ugly" nose. The purpose of her self portrait was to illuminate her flaws and put them out there for the world to see, something she had probably feared her whole life, and something I can imagine was both terrifying and empowering at the same time. So a little more than a year later, I've been inspired to do the same.

When I was 1 year and 1 day old, I pulled a cup of tea down from our kitchen counter onto myself. The hot water burned nearly half my face, but being so young and under the care of an amazing mother, I was able to recover pretty well. In fact, looking at my face (then and now) you would never know that I spent 8 days in the hospital and had some 2nd degree burns at the time. My neck, however, was left with a few scars. I don't remember much about my scars as a child. I remember undergoing surgery to remove the small keloids that formed on my scars at the age of 6. I remember the scars were still there after the surgery, as well as the keloids. At age 14, I had minor plastic surgery that consisted of cortisone injections to flatten the scars. This actually worked (and was pretty painful) but flat or not, the scars were still there. After a certain point I do remember only buying high neck shirts, or big necklaces to hide them behind, and also going as far as not wearing my hair up for fear of someone noticing them (that last one was a high school phase). Can you believe that? For 4 years of high school, I never wore my hair in a ponytail unless I was wearing a turtleneck. In retrospect, I was just so afraid of being physically different. Well luckily, when I started college, something made me leave that foolish worry behind, though I have no idea what it was. Maybe my inner love for clothes and fashion got so big I couldn't convince myself to go another 4 years wearing boatnecks and scarves. I think mostly it was just leaving behind that high school self consciousness and desire to fit in. I was still self conscious of my scars in college, but it didn't control or consume my mind as much as it did in the past. Even today, I'm a little uneasy about them, and sometimes fear the awkward "oh, what happened to your neck" question, but I no longer feel that having a scar is something to feel weird about. Being insecure about your looks is probably one of those things that never fully goes away. I'm only 24, but can say that in 10 years, I've come a very long way. Imperfections make us unique, flaws are beautiful, and every scar has a cool backstory. Whatever your situation is, it could've been better and it could've been worse, but there's no point in dwelling. I'm nowhere near being a well adjusted and comfortable adult but thank you to AFP for pushing me a little bit further.

And because I love quotes:

"The imperfections of a man, his frailties, his faults, are just as important as his virtues. You can't separate them. They're wedded." - Henry Miller


Maryn said...

Great post :) I hope you embrace your scars and never cover them up! My sister had an operation on her leg to remove a pretty large birthmark that the doctors thought could turn malignant she has a scar, but everyone thinks it is so cool, especially when she tells people that an alligator bit her. My two chicken pox scars on my forehead, however, are not so cool, and become even less cool when I tell people that I was born with antenna. I have relized that "antenna" does not have the same effect as "alligator." Ha haa

Sara said...

Thanks Maryn! :)

Usma said...

This is a beautiful post, very admirable :)