Today I took my official senior portrait. Yes–the one with the drape and pearls that gets published in the yearbook for everyone to see–that senior portrait. The circumstances were not ideal.

I’m slowly recovering from a cold. When I originally opted to do the make-up session in the fall it was because during the summer I still had braces and wanted to wait until I had them removed. I was not planning on being sick.

There’s something ironic about how I tried to plan this so I would be able to present the best version of myself and then I catch a cold a couple days before.

While I sat on the stool with a piece of black velvet draped across my chest and a photographer directing the tilt of my head, I realized how weird the situation was. One photo to memorialize your entire high school experience, it’s preposterous. Almost no one looks like their yearbook photo on a day-to-day basis. Who you were during those four years is summarized by a single snap shot. It’s a time capsule in the form of a photo.

Normally, I don’t care about yearbook photos. Last year, I took my photo during a chemistry lab. I removed my plastic goggles, ran down to the gym, smiled for the camera and went immediately back to the lab. I didn’t care about how I looked. I cared about my lab grade.

In fact, the endeavor even earned a mention in my lab report. ‘Members of the lab group were required to leave the lab during this stage due to uncontrollable circumstances.’  

That how I viewed that photo, as an ‘uncontrollable circumstance.’ However, this year I did care. I cared enough to put on a coat of lipstick and grab the string of pearls my grandmother gave me when I was thirteen. I wanted this photo to look good. I didn’t want to open my yearbook next fall and think ‘why didn’t I bother to look nice.’

But, hopefully, one day I will be able to look at that photo and know that I didn’t peak in high school. While I want to present a good version of the person I was in high school, I hope that it doesn’t become the best version.

I wonder if my future self will remember that I had a cold that week or that I was worried about catching lice from the communal cap that everyone wore for the cap and gown shot. I wonder if these minute details will be erased from my memory.

The truth is that I don’t know what I’ll think of the photo or even what the photo looks like. Whatever my thoughts will be I know that it will represent a unique time in my life that I can never replicate–high school.

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