I’m just shy of 23 in this self-portrait, taken in early 2007 in the bathroom mirror of a $350/a month firetrap Binghamton apartment with windows that barely opened and a radiator on the ceiling.
It’s my favorite photo of me; one of the few photos I feel that really captures my full self. I look defiant yet vulnerable, tender and tough, all the things that I was at that miserable and glorious age, when the world still seemed new and I was still foolish enough to believe that it was all just waiting for me to come grab.
I’ve spent the last few months trying to write and be beautiful and fancy, with my leather journal (a souvenir of Jason’s trip to Italy, sent back for my 22nd birthday) filled with cutouts and illuminations and pages written sideways in a desperate attempt to channel something beautiful and romantic, to attach pretty words to the depth I felt inside…but all that came out was empty prose that had no meaning, just lightweight words that sounded good, I guess, but lacked the gravitas I needed to carry, you know, a story.
But this photo, this Libby, this is the self I want to write from. My authentic self, the self that isn’t afraid to be a little fragile at times. Sincere. This is not a polished pin-up, this is the raw me, with my hair a little messy and my shirt a little too big and no makeup, nothing “put on.” When I took this picture, I was really finding my footing as a writer, but more importantly, I was writing from my gut. I was writing what I wanted to read and not worrying about anything but getting those words on the page. The rest, I trusted, would fall into place.
I keep this photo above my desk to remind me to write from that same place. To remind myself not to worry about languid, lovely prose or journals that people will pour over when I’m dead. No more pretending I’m fancy.
Just write. I need to tell myself. Find that place and just write…