The Shadow Of Others

I am beginning to see and recognize that I have always lived in the shadow of others. It feels most of my life has been connected to something or someone else. This past weekend I have been cleaning all of my old stuff out of the attic of the old place. Boxes and boxes of things I have collected over the years. Things I had forgotten, or better yet thing I had perhaps wanted to remain forgotten. I have been a person who has kept a petty extensive journal of my life, and so there are boxes and boxes of handwritten pages from all the days of my existence, probably the silly scrawling of a boy living in a world of misunderstood angst. The first box I began to explore seemed to contain all the images of my youth I had forgotten. I opened a pouch to discover my high school graduation pictures from Superior. The person in them was not at first recognizable, but it was unmistakably me. I stared at these images, transfixed for a long time, trying to connect to this mistakable past. In the images I was happy, content, my eyes filled with innocence and hope. Oddly enough this is not the way I remember myself. For some reason I could never see the handsomeness of a lad fill with creative zest. I have always felt it a burden to be different, odd, queer. You see I had a bother that was a year and a day younger than me. But I had somehow failed the first grade and was doomed to repeat it thus putting me at the same level as my younger brother. Mark was perfection in every way, blond hair, blue eyes, athletically inclined, the joy of my father’s life, he could do nothing wrong. He was vibrant and outgoing, everything I was not. Looking back, I become creative so as to not compete and allow myself to become original. I loved to read and often escaped through stories, I now see my creative nature was maybe also a means to escape. I was gangly, uncoordinated and often humiliated and intimidated by the other kids. You see, being one level back mentally and emotionally, I was still one level ahead in the physical development of my body and growth. And now looking back, I realized that I had lived all those years in the shadow of my brother, not thinking I was good enough to succeed only to become to oddball of our family.

I was my mother’s son, her first child, and in many ways coddled by her overprotective nature. My mother being a mousy slim hipped thing that looked like Ingrid Bergman dwelt in her own life of fear, being abandoned as a child, becoming co-dependant on every moment of her own existence. She hung on tight to those of us around her, me especially tight, that much of my youth I felt suffocated from her immense grip. I know until the day she died I was one of the most precious things to come into her existence. We learn from our parents and inherit their tendencies and I too became co-dependent on others unable to survive on my own.

Looking into this image of some thirty-two years ago, I see no trances of the reverie of my awkwardness in this image. All I see now is a beautiful boy with soft brown curly hair, a contented smile in my mouth moving up into the warmth my deep dark eyes. I really began to question, was this really me? I don’t remember being so handsome, so confident, so self-assured. Was I? How is it that the physical self can be so different from the emotional self? For some reason I always looked to my brother, and could only recognize those beautiful traits in him and could somehow never get beyond it to gaze upon myself.

Through the process of this project, my life has begun to open as I face all the things that haunt my past. Perhaps it is now time to open all those old journals and see what they will reveal. Perhaps my life is not at all the way I perceived it. I have a friend who is now asking me to look into the mirror and see all those positive things about myself that I can’t seem to or perhaps have never seen within myself before. I now think, he is right, this is the time. I realize now that most of my life has been dwelling in the shadows of others. In theater I dwelled in the darkness, behind the scenes. I have been in domineering co-dependent relationships, and now I linger in the shadows of other photographers I fantasize about emulating or becoming. I expect to succeed in a world filled with so many people wanting to do what I do, now even with their cell phones, it’s becoming hard to compete. I am beginning to see that perhaps the only thing original that I really have to offer, that is different, is myself, at this moment. This has defiantly been the year to step out of the shadows and reveal myself.

I think one of the things I fear the most is facing myself, and actually looking at what lies in front of mirror.

2 thoughts on “The Shadow Of Others

  1. Marklin

    >Terry My dear friend,
    Stop looking for answers that are right in front of you. Stop competing. There is no need for it. The best work you will ever do is when you create for yourself, because it makes you happy. Not because you think it is marketable. There is nothing wrong with looking at the past to find inspiration, there is nothing wrong with paying homage to those that have come before. Just remember to also pay homage to the remarkable man you are.
    All things that we bury are bound to rise again. The pain we bury deep rises and cuts just as deep. Just let it go. Don't allow something that happened 20 years ago dictate what you are today. Embrace it actually, it helped form the man you are today, and I for one think your pretty fucking cool. Now step out of that shadow and let us see that handsome face of yours in the light.

  2. Elizabeth Lister

    >Marklin said it perfectly. I think you are "pretty fucking cool" too.

    I had two brothers and a sister, all very very intelligent and attractive. I always felt like the dumb, ugly one. Once my children were born I saw my own beauty through theirs. I thought I must be beautiful if I produced such gorgeous kids. My siblings all did their Masters degrees, but I just have a basic B.A. I always felt inferior but now I am coming out (interesting way to put it) and proving myself as a published author. We are really alike in a lot of ways, Terry.

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