Search This Blog

Monday, April 30, 2012

Look Yourself in the Eye

"If you could go back and have a conversation with the 19 year old you, what advice would you give yourself?"

It's a common question often asked in interviews and at cocktail parties. Most of us have considered our answer to some degree. It usually has something to do with regret or a missed opportunity generated by the "what if..." that has been in the back of our mind over the years. An interesting but pointless endeavor, really. Any knowledge or insight we've gained at this point won't serve to change the past, so instead we use these insights as reminders of what we've been through and what we've learned.

A few days ago, while wandering through the art galleries and studios of the St. Paul Art Crawl, I had the opportunity to look my 19 year old self right in the eye. I was surprised enough to see the name of the photographer I had modeled for 20 years ago, Larry LaBonte, on the studio door but coming eye to eye with myself on the wall of his studio took my breath away.

There are 2 photos. They are both close ups showing not much more than one eye. In one I am looking down. In the other I am looking right at you, or in this case, right back at myself. I'm sure everyone who sees this image sees something different and has a different emotional response. There is so much mystery and superstition about our eyes. They give us information about the world around us.  They express emotion and connect us to other beings on a spiritual level. Larry talked about his experiences traveling and working in Japan, where people are accustomed to standing like sardines on the streets and subways but are very uncomfortable with eye contact. This was a concept he explored in his photography.

For me, though, what I see in that simple image is incredibly personal. I can see in my 19 year old gaze everything that I was then; hopeful, naive, a little defiant and relatively carefree, but mostly limitless. I was excited and optimistic about the adventure that was really just beginning. Would I really want to go back and tarnish that with advice from a more experienced me?  Maybe instead of asking what advice we would give our 19 year old selves the question we should ask is what advice they would give us?

No comments:

Post a Comment