#photographicmemory is a feature in which someone sends in a nostalgic photo of themselves and writes about it. It was created because sometimes you can find out more about a person by asking them to describe a photo than by asking them a ton of questions. It was also created because it’s nice to look at pretty photos.
On a particularly jolly evening the other day, as we were all dolled up for a big drag night party, a friend asked me what we would have thought if, as freshers, we could see ourselves now. He hoped we would be proud, if somewhat surprised, and we started drunkenly reminiscing about our sweet fresher selves. He had always said that his first impression of me had been how incredibly self-assured I had been for a fresher, when he had assumed that we were all wracked with nerves. He was probably right – in my first few weeks I don’t think it occurred to me that anything would fluster me at all, just as it never really had done in the past.
And yet that first term ended up being hugely disorientating. In school I had defined myself by my strengths, and those around me knew them so I didn’t feel I had much to prove. At university not only did nobody know my strengths, but, whatever they were, there was certainly someone better at them. For me, first term was filled with as many mistakes as most of my life put together (plus a few more for being tee-total before uni and decidedly not in first term), but they took on a far more major significance in my mind because they constituted first impressions.
This photo was taken at my college Christmas dinner at the end of my first term, which happened to be on the same day as my birthday. On either side were my two closest friends through that term. The guy on the right, who’d been sorting me out in all my moments of self-doubt, had laid on the most fantastic birthday surprise just as a reminder that he cared. That evening is one of the happiest of my life, and largely marked the end of the change-in-circumstances crisis.
I graduated almost exactly a year ago, and with most of us feeling equally disorientated by the experience it’s quite nice to drunkenly reminisce. To consider who we were and who we are now. The man who arranged my surprise is still one of my closest friends. However my perception of him has changed. When I first met him I thought he was homophobic, and yet in the interim he has proceeded to come hurtling out the closet as one of the most accepting and open-minded people I know. Then likewise the friend who hoped we’d be proud of ourselves and who we’ve become now has evolved. No longer is he his proper and preppy former self, but a young man who uses every excuse to don a dress and tell my mum about his sex life.
And whilst my friends still tell me I’m more self-assured than I feel, I’ve got slightly better at saying that I’m not. Graduation has caught plenty of us as off-guard as our fresher selves. Suddenly there’s a whole set of choices, with consequences, and worries about expectations and first impressions. But first impressions only last when they keep being backed up, and bad choices have a tendency to put themselves right. Take it from someone who pretends they do – I’m pretty sure nobody has the faintest clue what they’re doing, but it all worked out fine last time.
Lucy Makinson graduated a year ago from Cambridge. She stuffed up a grad-scheme, and realised for the first time in her life that she didn’t have a plan. She is about to spend 6 months travelling and trying to prove the friend who told her she was the least bohemian person they knew, wrong. When not working and thinking of food she is desperately trying to devise a plan to come back to. Literally, any plan. She really likes plans.
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