When I moved out of my residence hall at the end of this semester, I found two undeveloped disposable cameras in the drawer of my desk. Thinking they were both leftovers from before I had replaced my broken (ancient) camera with a new one in Morocco, it took me a while to get them developed after I returned home. When I finally did, I was surprised. It turns out only one of the cameras was from Morocco, mostly from a visit to the famous blue city of Chefchaouen.
The other camera was from “Pardglow,” an event thrown by the school late in April this semester.
Seeing these two sets of pictures side by side was a rather curious experience. On the one hand, the poor quality of the Chefchaouen pictures left those images hazy, colorful, warm. Only a handful of pictures from this camera even had people in them, offering a glimpse of my study abroad experience that was simpler, quieter than I remember it. On the other hand, my pictures from Pardglow showed a weekend with my friends, with fingers blurring out the corners of the frame and paint-splattered faces grinning at the camera. Not exactly my day to day on campus.
When I really look at both sets of pictures, neither seems a fully accurate description of my experiences either semester. I was only in Chefchaouen one day, and Pardglow was only one night. I spent a significant amount of my time in Morocco concerned about what I was going to say and how I was going to say it to the people constantly surrounding me, and often as concerned about what I would hear in return. The stillness of the Chefchaouen pictures does not reflect how I remember feeling the majority of my time. And while I love weekends at Lafayette and events like Pardglow, those pictures do not show the stress of finals three weeks after, or the times I sat on the laundry machines to do homework, or the dinners with my friends throughout the week.
But there is something to be said about these snapshots, one from each semester. The range of experiences from the Lehigh Valley to Morocco to Kenya and back again was as varied as these pictures show–perhaps even more so. I have had moments of thrill and giddiness, I have doubted myself, I have reached my boundaries and pushed past them, I have grown, and I have had stillness and quiet.
It is strange for me now to look at myself in these pictures, some months ago and others only weeks, and to think of how I was this time last month or this time last year, and the year before, and the year before that. I have this dual sense of pride for who I was then and for how I have changed since then. I don’t think the two conflict with one another. It’s the album of Chefchaouen and the album of a Lafayette weekend side by side, two snapshots so varied in experience, time, space, sound, meaning. They’re different. I’m different in both albums. But it’s still me, and those are all experiences that define this year.