Cameras were designed to capture a moment forever, but how often are those images truly congruent with those moments? I can produce thousands of words to describe this picture: student leader, successful, involved, confident, perfect; yet, not one of these words even comes close to describing how I felt the moment that picture was taken.
This photo was taken early last fall semester, which was arguably my hardest semester to date. I was taking a full course load, working 10 hours a week, had my hands tied in too many student organizations to count, and was trying to train for a marathon amongst the madness. Since the majority of my course load fell on Tuesday and Thursday, I decided to fill the other days of the week with meetings, responsibilities, and commitments. As you can imagine, Tuesday through Thursday were by no means relaxing; however, my best friend and I managed to find time to get brunch at a different, local diner every Tuesday, making Tuesdays just slightly more bearable than Wednesday and Thursday. During this particular week, those days seemed almost intolerable.
On Thursday, September 3, I woke up around 6:30 a.m. like I did every Thursday to get ready. Thursdays were especially challenging since in addition to attending five classes, I also had a business professional meeting in the middle of the afternoon. Although the struggle here may seem to be walking to class in heels since I often had no time to change, the real struggle was my internal conflict with the organization for which I was attending this business professional meeting. I slowly but surely began falling out of love with something that once brought me so much joy. I felt frustrated after this meeting but knew I had to cultivate the energy to last me through three more rigorous classes.
After the clock struck 5:15 p.m., indicating the end of my last class, the day seemed to have produced a silver lining. I went to Scott Traditions with a good friend before heading to the first Student Leadership Advocates (SLA) meeting of the semester. SLA is an organization that has brought me significant happiness during my collegiate experience and I often feel quite comforted when I am there. This particular SLA meeting occurred in the same room as my meeting from earlier in the day, but I tried to move past my pessimistic thoughts and insecurities and jumped into a conversation with some friends about their summer.
About ten minutes into the meeting our supervisor announced that the photographer was waiting in the hallway to take everyone’s pictures.
What photographer? I didn’t bring my polo.
As you can imagine, I was often quite scatterbrained on Wednesday nights and, as a result, had not check my email. As I scrolled through my cluttered inbox, I saw it in the fourth line down in my SLA supervisor’s email:
7 p.m.–photographer arrives! Take photos for the Buckeyes of Distinction TV screen (so look good and bring your polo!).
There are very few things I hate in this world more than mushrooms and people wearing their name tags on the wrong side of their shirt, but being unprepared is one of these things. I attribute this hatred of being unprepared to not wanting to let people see what I perceived of myself: that my life was a disaster. A friend so politely offered to let me borrow her black polo for the picture, which I tried to make look classy and normal with the pleated navy blue dress I was still wearing from earlier that day. As I stood on the balcony of the second floor of the Ohio Union with a fake smile while the photographer took my photo, that moment was worth a thousand words, among them being: forced, tired, stressed, uncomfortable, broken and unauthentic—none of which are words I would expect anyone to attribute to this picture let alone my life.
The pressure to be perfect is powerful indeed and is perhaps something that has guided my life for the past twenty years; however, we must be vulnerable and brave enough to tell our own stories that pictures could never tell. To many I am seen as a person who has it “all figured out”, but I can assure you that I am constantly battling insecurities, working to improve my weaknesses, and still trying to figure life out one day at a time, too. So, in conclusion, don’t judge a book by its cover or a picture by its filters because I guarantee you that nearly every photo is hiding a story untold.
Start this semester off strong by taking the initiative to take care of yourself because YOU MATTER.
Mental health resources on Campus: