A Peek at a Younger Roz

July 9, 2012

See the post for full details.

RozBeforeRichardCroppedLeft: Photos of me from when I was in graduate school!

A couple weeks ago things got rather tense around here. We were missing some rather essential paperwork. I never had it to file, or so I believed. But it was so critical to have that I got Dick to drill out the lock on my two-drawer, fire engine red, legal-size file cabinet (which has followed me around the world through family moves and transitory digs in dorms).

The paperwork wasn't in that cabinet (I didn't think it was) but I did reconnect with a couple interesting things from my past.

All my journals from college were in those drawers as well as correspondence from my high school mentor. Your first reaction upon finding a folder containing letters from a comforting soul and influence in your life might not be to bury your nose in the contents. I got along well with scent dogs because that is my first response. Even after all these years I was comforted to find that I can still smell Thom on the paper of that correspondence. It isn't a cologne, it's Thom. Smell is very important to my amygdala. 

My diaries were in that drawer as well (from age 6 through 18 I kept a diary, until Thom convinced me I might just as well keep everything in my journal since it afforded me much more space and try as he might, by introducing me to all sorts of modern writers, he couldn't knock the "Victorian" verbosity out of me). I was too stressed looking for the missing paperwork to pay the diaries more than a passing glance.

Ditto the collection of hair, including my long, long pony tail from when I first had my long hair cut off as a child at about age 9. I was a blonde! I'm thinking of making a box to hold all the samples because the typical hair trim now is 6 inches and I keep them just to see how my hair is changing over time; in other words, how much gray does it contain as we go forward?

The scramble for the elusive document also turned up these two photos of me, mounted on a mat board. I had to think for a moment who had taken the photos. I've got several friends who are photographers, but their photos are technically better than these. And I printed and mounted these photos, so they were shot with my camera. 

At first I thought I'd taken them myself, shooting into a mirrored building (I'd done that as a joke when I was an undergraduate). But my mole on my cheek is where it should be if someone else were looking at me. (I had to do some mental gymnastics about this because the mole is gone now, removed in 2006.)

I realized later that night that the photos must have been taken by the young man I'd dated before I met Dick. I think I printed and mounted them as a memento for him, because for a short while we had a long-distance relationship. He returned the photos when we broke up. (He was a very proper young man on a five-year plan: get out of school, get a job, get married, have kids. He wasn't happy that I ran road races on Sunday while he was in church. Obviously it was a mis-match from the start [since I'm a pantheist and I'm arguably not proper]—and a very short relationship.)

When I look at some of the other photos people have taken of me in the past I think immediately about my relationship to the person who took the photo. When I found these photos I had only one thought, "I still have that vest! Damn, I love that vest."

No actually, I thought about how odd it was to be so young. At that time I felt so old, so "mature." Certainly I felt certain of what I was going to do and how I was going to live—and it was going to include running in road races on Sundays, so I'd already moved away emotionally from the young man taking my photo.

But life changes us in odd ways we don't expect. Sometimes there are dramatic and tragic changes. Yet for everyone there are simple changes that build, accrue a little bit every day, until one day you aren't blonde any more and you don't run because of an ankle injury that in turn sent you down a different path (for me, towards dogs).

With the dramatic and tragic changes you have to step in and respond, often just slog forward and get through things. With the small changes that creep up on you it might just be that you don't recognize more has shifted than you intended or thought possible.

I think change is inevitable. If someone looks at a photo and says she hasn't changed since she was young I'm not going to argue with her about whether or not that's a good or bad thing. If he says he has totally changed, well only he can look into himself and analyze what he finds.

I have my journals to correlate. They are filled with my twice yearly self-evaluations which are sort of personal performance reviews (I too had a plan, but it stretched longer than 5 years). 

What struck me, upon seeing these photos of my younger self, was how much I had changed (and I don't just mean the outer package), while at the same time fundamentally I hadn't changed at all. I believe there are essential things that happen to us when we are young which form who we always will be. We can use the core created by those events in a positive or negative way. We can make adjustments.

Without dwelling on the past I believe it is helpful now and then to examine, not just your memory of yourself, but actual "hard copy"—contemporaneous documents so to speak. So I'm grateful that I have all those journals. They are useful to me when moving forward.

The photos also remind me that I have to keep choosing. Even though now I am supposedly as mature as I thought I was then.

It's good to have a reminder that life is about choice. We can't always choose what happens to us, but we can choose how we respond to life's events. 

We have limited time. It's better to choose. Otherwise you just might end up not recognizing yourself.

Note: We never did find the papers we needed, but we were able to replace them. Somethings are replaceable—choice isn't.

Oh, and I do love that vest.

  1. Reply

    Gorgeous photos, Roz. How wonderful that you knew the value of not only writing journals but keeping them safe to enjoy down the track.

    • Leslie Schramm
    • July 9, 2012

    Lovely pictures, but there needs to be another in the vest, from today. At that age we all probably felt mature and invincible. That fades, and not usually with maturity. The grand plan changes, sometimes you just need to stick that hand in the air; and try a new challenge. That’s how I ended up spending a humid May wandering around Cuba visiting churches, and getting offered every churchs little old ladies single, or lonely, daughters. (It was def too hot for such pleasures; and worryingly, discovered I was too much of a gentleman ) The “I want to start painting again” moment four years ago, was a pleasure greater than I expected.

    Enjoy those old documents. Years ago, working for a stamp dealer, we got in a huge collection marked “Ships and aircraft” Big Manilla Envelope in the bottom inscribed “Sir Walter Scott” which was a Clyde paddle steamer. As the bottom of the pecking order I got the stuff to sort. Was full of letters from Sir Walter Scott to his publisher, with the replies (Was astonishing to read and collate by date; mostly Scott asking where his payments were and the publisher complaining about his bowels; and the two of them swapping remedies). History sometimes has a great impact, go enjoy your own, and I hope there’s many moments of surprise ; but hopefully no accounts of terrible digestions

  2. Reply

    Happily when Thom was alive neither of us had problems with our bowels and the letters are still very interesting. A unique view of me from another time.

    Most of my life I have been only one age and pretty much all my friends agree—8.

    At that age you can get away with being lippy with flack (sp?) only from pedantic teachers and disapproving parents. I no longer have many teachers (at least any that I would take gruff from) and my parents seem finally to be used to my shenanigans. At that age too you can be obsessively interested in obscure things to report on—so it still works for me.

  3. Reply

    A very pretty girl who learned how to survive living her life. I’m so glad you’ve always been independent. My generation was the last required to go the traditional route.
    I don’t save my hair but each time it’s cut the brown is disappearing – a few more times and I won’t see the white in a white sink:) My “permanent” age varies from 10 to 17.
    A beautiful post.

    • j.long
    • July 9, 2012

    What great photos Roz! I love photos, and love how you relate your thoughts to us.
    I have recently retired from teaching karate for thirty and a half years. I taught in schools prior to that, so I am up there in years. I still train and teach occasionally, but I have started sorting through photos from over the years. I am sorting by families, and will try to get them to their families. One of my students was a freshman at USC this past year and she had e-mailed me feeling a bit overwhelmed . I e-mailed back with what wisdom I could muster at the time. I also made a poster for her based on my attempt at advice. I will send it to your e-mail. It kind of relates to your thought and at 70, it seems so to me.

  4. Reply

    Molly, I’ve been blessed with amazing teachers who welcomed my curiosity, encouraged it and broadened it. I suppose I have a bit of variation in my “permanent” age as well—there is an even snottier teenage Roz who comes out on all matters that require a bit more cynicism than an 8-year-old can muster.

    I hope my hair goes white. I have no idea what it will do because my mother dyed her hair throughout her life, even bleaching it at some points (which always seems sad to me since if you’re going to have red hair as a defining characteristic why bleach it! I always wished for one brilliantly white streak across a dark field of hair, like Yvonne deCarlo (sp?) in the Munsters! Or Peck’s Ahab. But the bulk of my hair is not dark enough to provide contrast. It will be a mousy transition.

    Glad you liked the post.

  5. Reply

    j. glad you liked the post. What a great gift to give your student—some insight. I will look for your poster in my email.

    I wonder at your thoughts as you sift through all those photos and send them off on their way back to their families. I like narrative threads to be complete, though often they aren’t in life. It seems your actions are a way of unraveling them and reskeining (not a word I suppose) an interesting proposition.

    • Leslie Schramm
    • July 9, 2012

    As a bloke, am holding on to being 14, old enough to like girls and sufficiently dexterous enough to achieve “things”. As for white hair, mine started at 13, with the Elvira white streak, in black hair, and by 19 was using dye, was pretty black dye only for ages, but now at 48 as it’s proper white, have ended up a very dark blond. As for inspirational teachers I think it was the Latin and English teachers. Certainly not the art staff, head of department hated me for being “left-handed” was nothing to do with me not being Scottish white in colour, no siree Bob. Great Great Granny was a large, impossibly black haired Italian/Naple Matron, and all the men have had the Italian swarthyness ever since. Good for being a pirate though. I bet Snotty Teenage Roz, is good at standing her ground in shops.

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