The school I teach at asked for some pictures of me when I was a kid to feature in the school's yearbook.
The timing for this was perfect, so while I was home in Wisconsin I looked through hundreds of pictures from my childhood and up through early college - this is back before the days of digital so I have tons and tons of printed photographs in a giant bin. They are largely unsorted and I was often the photographer so many of the pictures were of other people and places I was visiting, but I did find a few here and there that I actually happened to be in.
As I was looking through those pictures I though about putting together a little retrospective for you, maybe explain how I came to be who I am using the pictures I found. Surprisingly, my parent's scanner works (easily!) and I was able to get these pictures into digital format.
My family lived in the Philippines when I was a tiny kid. We alternated back and forth spending a year there and a year here. Most of my parent's pictures are in slide format because they spent so much time giving presentations so you actually need a projector for them. I did find a few, particularly these two that sum up the two parts of me as a kid.
I was, what my sister calls, a "rat child." My socks never matched, my hair was a mess, my clothes were stained with kool aid and my glasses were awkward. I changed clothes a lot, I remember annoying my mom with that that, and I loved to play dress up but in my day to day existence I was too busy running around, climbing trees, and living to really keep myself clean and put together. I was also uncoordinated and kind of socially aloof but I was with it enough to convince my parents to purchase me those white high tops with the light up flowers on them. I was super proud of those shoes that I'm wearing in the picture of me in the tree.
In middle school I did become a bit more conscious of what I wore but I was just a little behind all the times. Middle school was miserable since I hated my school, the kids picked on me a lot, and honestly I just couldn't get with the program enough to be on top of things. Like many other people, I just felt really numb to anything and everything in middle school. We had a super strict dress code in my tiny little Christian School and I wasn't awake enough to get creative with it.
(recognize the red suitcase from somewhere?)
When I hit high school, though, I got to go to a public school. I was thrilled - I could wear what I wanted and so I did. I went through a ton of different things, experimenting with anything and everything.
I started out with the beautiful blond popular girls - I had studied them in middle school so I knew how to work that but I quickly found out by the end of my first semester that hanging out with the "weird" kids was so much more fun. They took you for who you were.
Jeans, a studded belt, and a music related T-shirt was my uniform in high school once I figured out what I was doing. Music was my life for most of high school, and looking the part was very, very important to me. The watch with the two faces was given to me by my AP European History teacher, Mrs. Berry. She was one of the kindest and most amazing teachers I had. My parents were traveling a lot during that time so I had one time set to the time zone they were in and one set to my time zone. Also, Atomic records was the place to go buy records in Milwaukee at the time. Like many record stores, it's not open any more but I still keep that shirt!
Of course I had to have a little hippie phase in high school:
I started reading a lot of books and 'zines that really, really shaped the foundations of the political views that I hold even today. I had already been a vegetarian for three or four years by then but I got further into animal rights ideology and read some pretty out there political theory books. For a while I even refused to wear shoes to school because I had read about a guy who was a "barefooter". This was in the days before those silly barefoot running shoes that I detest now!
The school didn't care much and said it was fine except for in Anatomy and Physiology where I was around lab equipment and sharp objects so I kept a pair of shoes in my locker for that class only.
Luckily that phase didn't last too long and I was back into my band T-shirts and studded belts but I kept reading about politics.
Despite my totally contrived indifference to them, formals were always fun for me. I spent a lot of time pretending I didn't care...when in fact there was nothing I loved more than putting on a ridiculous dress and dancing the night away. In fact, that is still a favorite hobby of mine - some things never change.
You can see my love of vintage clothes reflected in some of the choices I made - I actually just found that 1950's prom dress in my parents basement and I'm taking it to Colorado with me so expect a re-shoot of that dress! The red dress is the first real thing I ever sewed that turned out - I copied it with the help of a friend's mom from the Paper Bag Video by Fiona Apple
Finally, no high school experience is complete without something made out of duct tape. For me I chose one of my homecoming dresses.
Towards the end of high school I started dating my friend D. He's been around in my life long enough that you can actually see pictures towards the very tail end of our relationship in the early parts of this blog. I don't post photos of him any more but we do keep in touch.
D had a great wardrobe - leather jackets, long hair, skinny jeans, more band t-shirts than I did and I knew I had finally met someone who dressed exactly how he felt inside. That was liberating for me. I borrowed the leather jacket and the funny vintage fedora he had studded, I wore all his sweatshirts and T shirts. I found the perfect black corduroy jacket and I wore it everywhere, even to the studio he was running out of a warehouse floor.
As I transitioned out of high school and into college what I wore became a lot more eclectic. I bought clothes and found clothes everywhere. I was traveling a lot, to NY and back or to Chicago to go see music and I stopped to shop at thrift stores just about anywhere. One afternoon I was rocking my grandma's pink dress from the 1960's and the next day I was done up in a Denim Mini and victorian style boots to go to brunch in NYC.
I'm really proud of the little girl I was. Life was good even though it wasn't easy and I managed to find my way, kicking and screaming, out of the wreckage of a childhood spent in devastating places. I am especially proud of the kick ass teenage girl I was that was wiling to stand up for the things I believed in, who ventured fearlessly from one place or idea to the next, who was really willing to try things out and to listen and observe.
I'm older now, more measured and calm, less flighty. I realize that I did a lot of stupid things and fought a lot of stupid battles. Regardless of that I recognize the influence my perceived immortality and the curiosity of someone really experiencing life had on my decision making as a teenager and one of the litmus tests I use when I'm making a decision and can't figure out what way to go is "what would my sixteen year old self chose?"
And generally, as a rule, my sixteen year old self is right.