I believe in saying “Cheese.”I believe that the pressing of a button and the flashing of a light is all that is needed to turn any moment in time into a lasting impression.
My family has a love, a fascination, an obsession with picture taking very similar to Hollywood paparazzi following Janet Jackson. Everything that happens needs to have pictures taken. Not just a few pictures of me, but also pictures with my dog, pictures with the whole family, pictures with each member of the family, pictures with combinations of family members, and the picture possibilities exponentially grow with props and placement.
For graduation, my extended family came over to our house to celebrate both my graduation and my cousin’s. One decently photographed pose was followed by several pictures where someone’s eyes were closed or someone was not smiling or some other minuscule detail that was off and we had to try it again. As I looked through the photos of the day, I realized that each photo held a different tone to it. I was laughing at all the funny pictures with eyes closed or fingers up like bunny ears. I could see frustration building in everyone’s facial expressions, especially the ones shown on my own face: a tilted head, rolling eyes, a sigh, and clenched fists. As I watched the emotions rolling across the screen, I slowly realized that if I’m not careful with the way I act and present myself, I could put off a potential friend, co-worker, teacher, or boss. Just because I’m not being seen through a camera lens doesn’t mean that the things in my life won’t form snapshots in others’ heads. I don’t want a quick still of my life to make me seem like a clown in the eyes of an employer, or like an easily frustrated and irritated person when things take too long.
Going off to college a few hours away from the place I grew up and not knowing the area or the people I would be going to school with, my slate has been expunged of any former images others held about me. And because of that, I have a new chance to meet people and make friends. I can be whoever I want to be. So inside and outside of class, I smile as much as I can, I am as polite as possible without being a pushover, and I stand firm on my decisions without being forceful and intimidating. And when someone asks for help, I do the best I can to help them. I make sure that I do so in order to leave a lasting image of a good friend and student on the fresh canvases of the minds I meet. Even though it’s not my family or a camera, I don’t want my mess-ups, my “wardrobe malfunctions,” to create a bad impression of me. I want every little glimpse through the window of my life to be a good one. That’s why I believe in smiling for the camera though there might not be one in front of me.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.