The Me in the Photo

frames on white background

by Madeline Mayans

I’ve never really liked looking at photographs of myself. Before I had social media, the only photos I saw of myself were the family photos that my parents put on the walls. They looked staged, and I looked really awkward in all of them, so I didn’t pay much attention to them. I remember that my dad took a lot of photos, but I never knew what happened to them, until recently, when I found out that all the photos are stored on a computer.

That computer has photos of me at every age, from photos of the day I was born to photos of me that my dad took at the beginning of my senior year of high school, and everything in between. There are photos from every first day of school, holiday, soccer game, and class field trip. There are even pictures from when I was eight and decided it was a good idea to let my sister cut my bangs. In retrospect, it was one of my worst ideas, although I did dye my hair temporarily purple when I was 16, and it still hasn’t washed out completely, so maybe I don’t make the best choices with my hair. Anyways, that computer has photos from every part of my life.

One photo that stands out to me is one of me on a swing set. It’s weird to look at because I feel like a completely different person from the one in the photo. The little girl in the photo is Maddie, but it’s not me, not anymore. 

A few things in this photo stand out to me. The first is that I’m not on the swing correctly. Instead of sitting on the swing, the little Maddie is leaning over the swing, holding the seat in her hands and resting on her stomach. It was ridiculous. I used to be too short to sit on swings, so I’d lean myself against them and push myself off the ground. Secondly, both of my feet are off the ground. I’m swinging forward, without a second thought. I could fall or get hurt, but I don’t care. The last thing that stands out is my face. The Maddie in this photo is young, probably around three or four. She still has the chubby cheeks of a toddler, but the crazy, wild hair of a child who decided she knew how to brush her own hair, but definitely didn’t. Her big smile and wide eyes seem like they’re halfway between excitement and panic. She’s not looking at the camera, but somewhere to the left. Unaware of the photo, I was just a little girl who wanted to swing.

Sometimes I wish I could go back to being the Maddie in that picture. The little Maddie had no idea what she was doing but wasn’t going to stop anytime soon. She was not scared of making mistakes, because she knew it would all turn out fine in the end. When little Maddie fell down, she would get back up. I, on the other hand, am terrified. I have no idea what I want to do or where I want to go. The little girl in the photo was carefree and impulsive, but now, I’m careful and cautious. I wish I could just make a choice and stick with it, but I can’t. I will second-guess myself and change my mind. That’s just who I’ve become. I’ve grown, I’ve changed, and I’ve gotten significantly better at brushing my hair. Also, I know how swings work. I have no way of knowing where life will take me or what will happen next. I can’t predict the future. I am different from who I was, but I am also different from who I will be. The little Maddie doesn’t know what the future has to hold, but she’s leaping into it anyways.