For years now, I’ve wondered what happened to a particular little blue photo album that I once had. It was filled with pictures that I took from sixth grade through ninth grade, which (in my memory) were my happiest years of school. Pictures of school trips to Camp Livingston and to Chicago. Pictures of my friends as we goofed off around school. Pictures from our last family trip (ever) to St. Louis and Hannibal, Missouri. That photo album was filled with such wonderful memories but I figured it was lost in the piles and stacks and stuffed closets of my parents’ messy house.
So imagine my surprise today when my mom hands me a box of stuff she found in my old bedroom closet that included that photo album. As I opened it up and flipped through the pictures, I wasn’t filled with the warm recollection of childhood like I had anticipated after years of wishing that I could find that album. Instead, I was hit with unexpected pain as memories came rushing back. I saw picture after picture of the boy who led me on in high school but would never date me because I wasn’t good enough. There were so many pictures of the girls who were my best friends through age 16 but then started to pull away because I was too odd, my interests didn’t mesh with theirs, and I didn’t have the money like they did to go to the mall and to the movies every weekend. I saw pictures of a girl who started horrible rumors about me and made my high school life hell for a while. I saw friends who walked away, the boy who always said no, and people who aren’t part of my life anymore and haven’t been for a very long time.
I’m envious of people who are still friends with the people they grew up with. Part of this is my fault, I know. I didn’t reach out and try to maintain those friendships after we graduated. But by senior year, I felt so isolated, so different, that I didn’t think any of them would miss me. None of them did. Now I’m stuck with this photo album that I so desperately wanted to find, never thinking about what emotions it would evoke in me once it was in my hands again.
I know that those events were years ago and that I should just let all of it go. My brain knows this. The thing is, those were my formative years – the years that helped shaped me into who I am today. And they aren’t good memories. I know why I have no self-esteem, why I always expect to never matter as much to my friends as they do to me, and why there isn’t enough money in the world to bribe me to move back to my hometown.
I don’t know what to do with this album now. I can’t throw it away, regardless of the way it makes me feel. Perhaps I’ll just bury it in the back of my own closet for 20 years and then maybe, once 40 years have passed since those pictures were taken, I’ll finally be able to tune into the happy emotions I once associated with that time of my life.