It is interesting how you can look at a photo of yourself from years ago and decide that the person forever captured and embodied there was immensely happier than the person you are now. You might have had a different friend group, you might have attended a different school, and you might have been more involved in activities that you used to enjoy so much (but can't seem to find the time to partake in now). We tend to reminisce about how life was much simpler during those times, and perhaps, we may even wish we could return to those times.
What is also interesting, however, is how a photo can also remind us just how miserable we were at a certain point in our lives, despite how happy we may look in the photo itself. It may be a cynical way to view it, but sometimes a photo can remind us of how differently we can choose to portray life from our reality. A photo could be deceiving, a glamorous story we've made up as a method of coping with some atrociously messy emotions we are dealing with in our lives. We are all-too-familiar with this phenomenon with our social media usage as well.
However, despite how we may feel about who we were in the past, I think it's important to recognize the significance of that timeless saying, "the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence." Perhaps we are always romanticizing different times of our lives (apart from the ones we are currently living in) because we only remember the idealized versions of those times and can only presently dwell on the negative aspects of our current circumstances. In this way, there is no winning, but if we reverse that principle, perhaps we can feel more fulfilled in our current lives. If we could think of the present as "ideal," no matter the state of it, accept the past with whatever flaws were prevalent, and hold a profound desire to continue ahead and never look back, we would probably live much more happily.
As beautiful as people may be in photos, they only capture an instant of us. We are much more than that. We are peals of uncontrollable laughter, stubborn tomato stains, random trivia facts, the songs playing non-stop in our heads, breathlessness after an unexpected sprint, the stars pinned delicately to a deep, dark sky, the peace you feel on your way home. And we can always strive to remember that our lives are as ideal as they can be right now, in this present moment. And if we don't like how it is, we can always start moving towards something better.
Attempting to live without idealizing our past selves can be very difficult. Frankly, it makes me a little sad to see photos of me in years past and remember the good qualities I possessed. However, I can acknowledge that a lot of those good qualities I can strive to regain or build upon. I also like to think that the present version of me is a better and wiser person than before. So, I am thankful for the person I was, but I also am even more thankful because she served as a vessel to help me evolve into the person I am today.
And I'm confident that I'll always be evolving, no matter when a photograph was taken.