The 2017 daily portrait project provided more than an aesthetical glimpse to a character building year- it taught me more than I initially prepared myself for about how my psychology was presented in my appearance.
What I had anticipated to be a light hearted documentation project became an unpleasantly raw admission to my flaws and lessons learnt the hard way. To contextualise, I felt a strong lack of direction after what had felt was a solid start to my career, traveling in short term gigs and severely struggling to cope with two immediate family members passing within two years of each other.
So here we have a summary, the curious lessons learnt from 2017 based off of this project.
I hadn’t recognised just to what extent I swing from complete schmuck in a hoodie and bun to trying to adult in a dress with some mascara on. Not in a lazy girl way- but to a degree which was uncomfortable to view. When I was down, I was bloody Australia. I’d never taken full acknowledgement of the way I put my mood across so obviously through my appearance. Talk about subtle.
Lying to myself
Even though this project was just for me, there were still times when I hit such a low in agoraphobic anxiety that I was too ashamed to capture the day and document the grey in stone. Or, digital archiving at least. I used extra photos from other days as safe fall backs where absolutely needed. An illness in November set me back in multiple ways; I couldn’t admit it. I felt so ashamed to put my hand up and show how I’d let this happen, and this is where I recognised how uncomfortable I was about using faux images. It compromised the idea behind the project, yet the images simply didn’t exist. I wanted no evidence of having been so low, I wanted to forget and push towards betterance and not getting that way again. And it worked.
Not once did I tell someone about the project, and stealthily took the images away from friends, family and public areas in most circumstances. It meant a myriad of corridor and bathroom photographs, and rarely capturing myself in the outside world because of a fear of looking vain. I was in Times Square and too embarrassed to try take a photo of myself, same for other travels and places to note. In addition to the public fear of taking photos (for I know my face is not as pleasing as others), I was also hyper aware of the amount of selfies that were then in my photostream on my phone. When people borrowed my device or looked at it, I was incredibly defensive and protective about them not seeing my photo gallery for worry about looking egotistical. For me, I’ve come to terms with the fact I am not beautiful and that is simply not something I will ever herald in my character description, yet I feared others thinking that I had a manner of ego and self adoration. I am sceptical about the use of social media, with my instagram clear of trace of myself and my facebook account often being deactivated and taken offline, or if live then there is a strong absence of photos of myself for quite some time. I get intimidated by the types of girls who consistently flaunt themselves with selfies on social media channels, and for the sake of my well being I removed myself from this jungle forum. It perturbed me to feel like I was a part of it by publicising selfies, hence not promoting this project and the general abstinence from social media.
This one is brief due to sensitivity, but it feels improper to bypass this as an honest analysis. As a haunt for almost a decade, I loathed the fluctuation in weight through various injuries and periods of the blues. It was the frequent reason for project cheating and made my skin crawl to view back the project for this reason, but helped me get my ass back in control gear towards the end of the year.
My hair was in an unhealthy way from anxiety and stress during Spring, so I had no option but to have a haircut. That bloody haircut.
I’ll never suit a pixie cut, I’m the opposite of dainty, and short hair is heinous against my unfortunate chin. I gave up on trying to rescue the miniature locks after a while, and admitted defeat. But before I got there, I refused to leave the house after the cut- devastated at my appearance and aggressively ashamed. I was due to celebrate an event of my sisters, just the two of us, with a night out out in town. I refused at the last minute, citing my self conscious led agoraphobia as I hyperventilated in my room. Hands shaking and heart pounding as my entire wardrobe decorated the floor and I proclaimed myself unable to wear a single item. My sister threatened to take me out naked and gave me some tough love to eventually force me out the house, the first time that’s ever happened so soon after a full blown attack. We chose to go to a pub in our village as opposed to busy town, even though neither of us ever went to the local pubs and it was a completely out of the blue suggestion.
To cut a long story short- my sister got me back to being calm, comfortable, playfully tipsy. A very merry blonde chap around my age sat on our table in defeat of standing, only to see my sister and I smiling at him as he drunkenly tried to talk to us. His friends laughed at him and apologised, and after a few drinks they were all around our table. An after party at a particularly lovely gentleman’s house later and you can say the rest is history- we hit it off with electricity. I went to America for 3 months, called him as soon as I got back from Philly, and turns out I’m not a cold hearted spinster as I thought. The particularly lovely gentleman has very much helped guide me back to being a better version of myself, and I’ve never been so comfortable and bloody happy with someone. He even came with me to see my beloved Lake Bled in Slovenia in December. He got me a Polaroid printer for Christmas, I keep the debut Polaroid- one of us both at NYE in black and white- in my phone case in front of my debit card. I need to stop for blushing. I don’t know what will happen, if this is setting myself up for heartbreak. I don’t know if publishing this admittance will set me up for a looming hiccup. I’m excitedly unsure. What happens happens, what will be will be. But for right now, I’m crossing my fingers.
Point is- thank god for that haircut, or we would have never have met. Fate, if you believe it.
Tying in with issues outlined earlier, I was embarrassed for how much time I spent hiding in defeat of demons. Viewing it as a whole was curious to see the journey from Amsterdam to blues to America to prosper to Copenhagen to the aftermath confusion of what was happening to finding security towards the end of the year with an incredible job offer and move to London.
The admittance of personal issues having hindered my happiness so much in 2017 was a tough load to swallow. I recognised that I wasn’t in a decent place for me to be content mentally and sustain myself traveling with no security, support or direction. I recognised that, shit as it may be, I wasn’t cut for the backpacker nomad lifestyle right yet. I needed to hoard up my savings for my own insurance in my mind, although I had not experienced any financial issues. I needed to work on my goals, and needed the security of work and a roof of my own to launch me back into my craved independence. I yearned to grow my skills and develop my career, which in tow would help with international work later on. It was a long game investment. Work and save for a couple of years, which’d give me the platform for short term travel, skill development, saving and wellbeing patchwork in addition to being in London and thus close to the Art History classes at Westminster College and puppetry classes, with fellow filmmaking and writing enthusiasts in close proximity to begin executing creative intentions.
Pray, let us all succeed in 2018. Sod resolutions. Learn and develop within from your mess-ups in 2017- and mark it against the equivalent project a year from now.