I ask myself the hardest questions sometimes.
At my great-grandmother’s 90th birthday someone had put together a film reel with photographs from her life. I remember her sitting stoically through it -it was not her who cried for the minutes it played but most of the others in attendance – and it has stayed with me since that evening in 2005.
Of course a life cannot really be summed up in a couple of photographs and likely nowadays we might be mistrustful of a similar showcase considering applications like Instagram exist which encourage us to memorialise our lives as we live them.
So perhaps this is an inane question to pose.
Before I came off Instagram (I probably shouldn’t have, I could have encouraged more people to visit this site!) I rarely posted a true photo and even if I did I would obscure its authenticity with a caption designed to prop up an unreality. As if my ordinary life wasn’t worth the application.
I realise that all photos, even the ones of my great-grandmother’s era, run the risk of being untruthful to what was happening at the time. How many times has someone complimented you on a particular photo only for you to explain, perhaps humorously, what was really going on at the time? There are some here in this house that I avoid looking at because I find myself disingenuous.
However, thinking about which photographs, which moments, would make it into my life’s film reel has been on my mind all afternoon, largely thanks to a song I discovered on Spotify which I felt might make a suitable backing track.
It’s not a bad way to know what matters to you to allow your mind to wander in answer to that very question. I know nowadays the fetishism around centring your mind in the present means that there is a kind of guilt in admitting that you’ve wandered around in your past for a while. The past can be a good visit and sometimes the present pales in comparison. Many times you’ll find that the past can spur you on. Even if it isn’t always the friendliest, the past isn’t the enemy.
So what would I want to see playing in mine? What I know is that when I imagine it as I did earlier, it wasn’t playing out some of the things that I have had on my new years resolutions lists for the last few years.
No bungee-jumping, parachuting, swimming with sharks or crocodiles, reading “x” amount of books in “x” amount of time, travelling the world or, in fact, doing anything.
All I imagined was that my life would be full of people. A couple of moments sprung up – none of when I was “achieving” anything, all of times I have been either reduced to tears of genuine emotion or laughter in very normal circumstances made special by the people I have somehow convinced to share some time with me.
If that is what is important to me then I don’t know why I obsess about being seen to be doing things. At the end of the day if what comes to mind when I privately reflect on what I would want to be shown on my 90th birthday is that I mattered to others and that they mattered to me, why even stress at all?
Just by living and interacting – not always successfully let’s be clear on that! – I am clocking up on moments that maybe mean nothing to me now but are quietly being stored by the smarter part of my brain for when I need a reminder that I haven’t made quite so many mistakes as I sometimes think I have.
What would be in yours?