This has been a time of loss for me.
Some losses are obvious, some are simple casualties of hardship.
Loss of self, for instance, goes hand in hand with loss of freedom. I lost my sense of self for 438 days. In its most literal manifestation, I barely ever saw my face while incarcerated. Most jailhouse mirrors seemed to have been manufactured for a dollhouse–and staring into them was like looking into the glinting curve of a spoon.
When I was released, I became fascinated with the shell of myself. It looks so similar to when I went away, even though the insides of me feel so very different.
This body is in the world again, I wanted to shout–so I opened an Instagram account and posted a picture of my face.
My face–in my world–to my world. Home again.
Since July 18th of last year, I’ve posted what amounts to a selfie a day. 142 shouts of freedom in the form of a face not mutated by reflection. 142 bookmarks of my expressions as I fade back into the world.
And as is the case with anything you practice, you learn.
MY FACE SINGS EXPRESSION, AND PEOPLE CAN HEAR IT.
I’ve never considered myself particularly expressive, but when I post a picture–no matter what I caption it–people can usually peg the emotion I was going through at the time. Apparently you can read me like a children’s book.
SMILES ARE CONTAGIOUS.
I knew this, but never really applied it to the Internet. If I post a big enough smile, I can almost guarantee someone smiled when they saw it. Even if it was just to smile and shake their head at my silliness.
MY FACE IS AN ASYMMETRICAL MESS.
Seriously. I have a fat eye and a tall eye. I have a mole on the left side, above my lip, and a scar on the other side. I have a scar below my lip on the left side. I have a hair part that does what it wants and freckles that wildly dot themselves against the canvas of my face. Sometimes flipping my picture around makes me look like two very different humans.
And that’s okay.
It might actually be my very favorite thing about my face.
PEOPLE LIKE TO GIVE COMPLIMENTS.
When I started posting selfies, and someone would comment with “Beautiful!”, I’d think–oh, she missed me. Being free is pretty beautiful.
Over time, I paid attention to my own habits in regards to other people’s selfies. I realized people just like having an opportunity to let you know they see the beauty in you.
People are kind.
INTERNET MEMES HATE SELFIES.
Whenever someone writes a mean comment about too many selfies, I cringe and wonder if they’re talking about me. Then I post another selfie anyway, because life is too short to worry about passive aggressive Buzzfeed articles and grammatically-incorrect Facebook commentary.
IT’S NOT EASY.
Often I can turn out an 800-word post in less time than it takes me to decide whether or not I want to post a picture I’ve taken of myself. Sometimes, I will sit on a picture for days before using it.
I consider myself to be a Plain Jane, and I’m pretty happy with that status. I feel like I look like myself. I am confident that those who matter to me see my beauty.
And still: It’s. Not. Easy.
When I see someone’s selfie now, I take a minute to send some love their way. They looked at themselves, zoomed in on the flaws written into their skin and their world, and said–I am me. I am enough beauty to warrant this picture.
And they always are.
People are beautiful.
BETWEEN SHOULDERS AND LIGHT, FILTERS AND CROPPING–YOU CAN TELL A STORY WITHOUT SAYING A WORD.
This is the most appealing aspect of it to me. I am a storyteller, and every possible medium is of interest to me, because I am stuck in a story I am trying to tell.
It’s about a girl who sometimes is a dinosaur.
Her story is a long one, but the short version is she loves you. And she loves herself, too.
Her self is free now, but she captures it anyway, so it can tell the tale in flash and frame. A story of how she kept her soulshape when locked so tightly in a box. A story of how she kept her wholeness when so many holes pierced through her heart.
A story of freedom, and how to wear it consciously. A story of love, and how to wear it conscientiously.
The story is coming together. Snap by snap, her full self is being returned to the world. She can see it building, fragment by fragment, selfie by selfie, day by day. She is wearing her future and learning her way forward.
This is a time of gain for her.