Let’s face it, we are all going a bit crazy.
All these constant lockdowns with no end in sight have to take a toll.
Everyday we hear stories of struggles, home schooling difficulties, higher rate of divorces, an increase in domestic abuse, mental health issues, vaccination arguments pro and con. It is hard to ignore it all unless you live in a bubble.
As I look at the grey skies in Vienna, in the midst of a yet new lockdown, I feel protected but at the same time trapped. It has been too long since I last visited my country.
I miss walking by the seashore, feeling the cold breeze in my face and the inspiration that comes with it. I miss being with my Portuguese family gathered around a table, sharing food and laughter for hours on end.
Above it all, I miss the freedom to choose. To plan a vacation or a trip somewhere on a whim, to see friends and have a coffee. Things we took for granted before and now require Covid tests and quarantine routines.
We became shadows of who we used to be and wonder what happened. “Where am I?” We ask. Like we got trapped on an endless merry go round that is anything but merry at this point. “It will get better eventually” the experts declare. When is a guessing game no-one is willing to predict anymore.
So I’ve been thinking a lot lately how to not lose sight of myself. Most of my memories are visual, I can see places and people that became part of my life throughout my pilgrimages around the world. I can remember the first thing I felt when I landed in the countries that would become my home every 4 years. What I felt when I met people whom I consider now family. The taste and scents that opened my senses to new experiences.
Even if you haven’t travelled much, I’m sure you can remember the home where you grew up, the smell of your mother’s home cooking, the games you played as a child, the moments of happiness as a family.
Not all was good of course, tears, pain, sickness, fears, these are all part of who we are. But at this point it is worth to concentrate on the good.
So how to remember who you are? We all have photo albums hidden or forgotten somewhere. And if you just have the electronic version, go find that too. Open them and look carefully. You may find yourself as a child, a younger version of who you were but still are deep down inside. You may discover what made you happy, what you really love to do, what made you fall in love, why you chose the path you did.
For a project I am working on, I had asked a family to find the wedding pictures of their parents and pictures of them growing up. When I visited again, they thanked me because they said that due to my request they had come together as a family to look at the family albums. They explained it had brought so many memories, many happy moments they had almost forgotten. Thanks to that, they had spent hours talking when usually the children in their 20’s would just retire to their bedroom. Something so simple.
I do it all the time. As a photographer I often go back to my arquives but I also go back in time, to my childhood. I see myself excited, rushing down the stairs on Christmas morning anticipating the opening of the presents. I see us on the beach, swimming in the sea or having picnics that my mother prepared with care. So much food! Better have too much than not enough, she used to say.
So go, look at those moments, remember how you felt, what were your dreams, what made you tick. Think back to the people who were part of your life, some of whom you lost on the way, others that are still there. Look back on the love that endured, the one that made you laugh and feel giddy. Recall the moment when you heard the first cry of your baby that changed your life forever. That is who you are!