On the center of the granite countertop of the mini bar in my grandparents’ house, a home I spent the majority of my childhood in, sits a single polaroid. In that polaroid is a picture of me as a little girl, food all over my face with my dog right in front of me.
That is the only photo I have from my childhood and I can barely remember the story behind the photo. Now, it makes me wonder how many memories I’m missing out on because I can’t remember. This is also because I have no photos to revamp my memory.
I have no photos of myself with long hair, with my parents, or pictures of my dogs. All I have are my memories; the ones blurred between the lines of trauma and bliss that was my childhood, the ones I desperately want to forget and remember all at once.
It’s terrifying that I have such a clear memory of the smallest details nowadays, but I can’t even remember the details of my parents’ faces. The little things in life that were defining aspects of my day to day life as a kid are blurred images in my mind today.
All I would have are these photos, but I don’t even have those.
Now, I have an abundance of videos and photos piling up in my Snapchat memories and phones new and old holding numbers of concert videos that I barely look at anymore. Videos that I refuse to give up, in case I want to look back on them and smile. I have photo albums filled with developed photos, polaroids from prom and random nights with friends, lining the shelves of the desk in my dorm room.
Some people say you need to live in the moment, to put your phone away and let your mind keep the images. But, I can’t. I don’t take photos and shaky videos to post them on my social media; I take them so I can hold on to the memories forever in the literal palm of my hand.
I have no photos from my childhood. Not a single one. Not in a photo album, on my phone, but I wish I did. As much as I try to forget everything from my life before I was ten, I wish the memories weren’t becoming just memories. I wish I could hold on to a photograph and relive the moment all over again.
But, that’s why I take photos all the time through the lens of three different cameras. So in thirty years, I can look back with a clear image and not just rely on the one in my head.
With SATs only a couple days away, only one question has constantly tainted my mind.
Where do I want to go to college?
These last several months I thought I was certain that NYU was the only school for me. I would apply early decision, and then I’d wait to see whether I’d be accepted to the university of my dreams. There, I’d immerse myself into the greatest city in the world. I’d study journalism or political science on a pre-law track. I’d study in artsy coffee shops with a group of my best friends during early mornings, and I’d go to Times Square during late nights. I couldn’t imagine a better city to spend the next several years of my life.
It’s been my dream since I was a little girl.
But the more I thought about it, was that really what I wanted? Yes… Well, maybe. I thought so.
I thought I was ready to leave all my friends and family on the west coast.
I thought I was ready to leave my horses behind while I blindly chased my dreams in the biggest city in the world. I never wanted anything more in my life. My horse would be waiting for me when I came back. He’d understand. I have dreams I need to follow.
But was I ready to go from the small towns I’ve known my whole life to the crowded, noise deafening streets of NYC? I dream about it every night. I dream about never being bored; never running out of exciting ways to spend my nights, even in the most minimalistic ways.
Was I ready to move from a small, rural school with only 120 students, to a large university with over 20,000 students? Yes. I want to walk onto my campus and see a new face I’ve never seen before. I want to meet a new person with a completely different life than mine, and I want to learn from them. I want to be in a place so large I can meet a new person everyday, where I can learn a new thing about a new topic from a new person everyday. I want to be another face in the crowd, but I also want the outlet where I can become a memorable face in that same crowd I merely pass through.
But was I ready to give up everything I’ve known my whole life? The only thing I’ve known my whole life? I don’t know.
I thought I knew. I always liked being the one in my friend group who could proudly say I had my whole future planned out, but now I don’t know. I can’t tell if I’m willing to settle for FaceTiming my friends instead of seeing them face to face. How could I possibly give up horseback riding for months at a time? The one passion that has made me excited for the end of the day. The passion I have put hours of tears, sweat, and money into in return for infinite feelings of happiness and an invaluable bond with another animal.
I thought I had the answers to all the questions I’m asking myself right now, but I realized I don’t, and there’s still so many questions that I haven’t even started comprehending yet.
What I do know is that I’m ready for college. As much as I love OVS for shaping me into the person I am today, I’m ready for a new chapter in my life. I may only be a junior, but I’m ready to go out on my own and find out my purpose in this world. Maybe I’ll find out NYU won’t be the school for me, or maybe I’ll find out that there’s no better match, but I’ll find that out sooner or later.
The audience hushes as the red, velvet curtains slowly open. There is only a single, shining light poised on a girl. Her tight ringlets framing her face fall out of her rigid ballerina bun. Her soft, lilac dress glistens in the beam. Her big, green eyes glitter.
With a fast, sharp note from a hidden violin, the girl raises, kicking her leg straight in the air, while rotating her pointed foot, still on the ground. Her pointe shoes move in a flurry, fluttering left and right across the stage.
A minute later, her feet finally meet in a plié, as she bows and scurries off the stage. I am the first to stand up and cheer for the girl, my daughter. I meet her smiling face in the hallway, after the performance, bringing her into a warm embrace and handing her an outrageous bouquet of white roses. My eyes well up at the sight of her. I snap a picture to remember this moment.
My pride and joy. My little girl. My partner in crime. My little ball of sunshine.
I cannot see into the future, see what job I’ll have, see where I’ll call home. My crystal ball is currently out of order. However, I’ve never seen my life without a child, without a family. I can’t see all the holidays, filled with scrumptious meals and plenty of presents, without a husband and daughter; the winter days with warm sugar cookies fresh out of the oven; crudely-drawn crayon masterpieces covering the fridge and the Polaroids of every little moment lining the hallways.
I dream of my son asking someone to go to prom, my daughter’s soccer team going to play-offs. I can see my son going on tippy-toes to shove a bundle of Christmas cards into the mail, snow falling on his button nose, turning his skin pink. I want to help my daughter learn to walk in heels, laughing as she trips over her own feet.
I see this future as I write letters to my future children, as I jot down names in my phone. I see it in the pride in my uncle’s eyes as he saw his daughter graduate college. I see my future in the plethora of Facebook posts from my aunt.
So, I don’t know what my future holds, nor do I want to. Maybe I’ll score a job as an astronaut or an author, but I do know that what I want, more than anything, is a family of my own that I can celebrate the news with.