I didn't plan it this way, but one of the first things I ended up doing as a newly-minted retiree was cleaning out the garage. Don't judge me; I blame it on my astrological sign.
Taking up a tremendous amount of space was a collection of old yearbooks and picture albums spanning decades. I now realize the benefit of digital photography — it frees up more physical space so that we can fill it with other stuff, like old kites, sleeping bags, and holiday decorations. Honestly, why do we keep so much crap? You do it too, you know you do.
Anyway, rummaging through the photos and deciding which to scan for posterity versus which to shred or recycle has been interesting. The greatest enjoyment of this task has been posting some of these old photos on Faceplant (errrr, Facebook) for the enjoyment of others. It's astonishing how little, and how much, people have changed over time. Oh, would that we had the ability to travel forward ten years or so and see what effect today's actions will have on our future appearance. (Read: Use your sunscreen, folks!)
This project revealed something else as well, and that is how deceptive photographs can be. My own smiling face hide some troubled times; my unhappiness disguised for the camera. Photograph after photograph looked the same, despite my having learned of my then-partner’s infidelity and my quiet struggle to manage that ugly truth. Yet the camera, which supposedly never lies, surely did. Was it a lie? Or did my smile in the face of pain show my own inner strength and tenacity. Hindsight suggests the latter, though I didn't feel either strong or tenacious at the time.
Sharing these photos has also brought me back in touch with old friends. Though thousands of miles separate many of us, these small reminders of our collective love for one another has had the effect of nurturing those relationships again, just like sprinkling water on a dried houseplant. It's a beautiful thing, this reconnecting.
While my trip down memory lane has been at once joyful and a bit melancholy, it has served to reveal with some clarity how I got from there to here. Everything about our lives — where we have been, what we have done, and those with whom we have shared the path along the way — has contributed to who we are now. Every decision, every relationship -- those lost and those newly born -- has been a stepping stone to today. The joys, the pain, the choices, and the unexpected challenges. All of it, both good and bad, create the mosaic that is our lives.
And every choice we make today will contribute to who we are tomorrow. Every choice.