This picture was taken in January 1995, my first winter here. I was 26. I recently spoke to two friends that age, one visiting the Czech Republic for HER first winter, and the other working abroad for the first time.
Since I kept a diary back then, I was able to visit that younger Anne, to see how much of what I remember now was what I thought was important at the time and to ponder how much of who I was then informed who I am now.
And mostly I'm the same. I wrote sentences like "I think sometimes people practice being unhappy to remind themselves they are still alive." I had a weakness for gimmick novels. I had a dream about a writer whose fingers turned to fountain pen nibs and she ripped apart a person she was trying to hug.
But I was so fixated on how unattractive I was. For example, I wrote about the boy who took this picture, and how much it meant that he let his skin touch mine here, because it meant he wasn't afraid my ugliness would infect him.
Now I look and I think -- I was not ugly. How did I think I was ugly? Was it being female, was it the people I socialized with, was it how any insecurity I felt manifested, was it the hair (it's always the hair)? I wish that I had a time machine to go back and tell that girl she was okay. I would have told her she was fine, that there were so many other things worth having all those feelings about. I would have told her that her eyes were incredible and that she should learn to use them to see things more clearly, that her skin was lovely and doing a great job of holding her guts in so she could quit spilling them to dingbats who didn't deserve it, that her hair was perfectly fine and to hell with anybody who told her differently. I would have told her that her beautiful heart was the only thing that mattered but also that she had amazing bones.
Of course I turned out okay; I'm 95% less likely to stay inside because I am too afraid of frightening people in the street with the horror of my face. So since I like who I am I probably wouldn't use the time machine to go back in time to change anything.* But I have decided to try to tell people a little more often how beautiful they are on the outside. Just in case they don't know.
*Also if you have a time machine you go back and invest in Apple or something USEFUL, duh. TM MIG.