I am a recognizable stranger


Raising the binoculars up to my eyes—right below my impulsivity-bangs—I embrace the haze because I’m not ready for the picture to clear just yet. As soon as it focuses, I will clearly see the vision I’ve been adamantly avoiding: the version of myself that I was two years ago. Scared of my own self, I remove the binoculars and remind myself that I wasn’t always so afraid of who I used to be.

I didn’t always avoid it— who I was two years ago. Snapchat shows pictures you took on that day one or two years ago, and they used to not faze me at all. I used to tap through them mindlessly, not paying any attention to how different I looked two years ago or how different I acted two years ago or how different my life was two years ago.

It used to not faze me. And then, a few days into 2019, I cut my own bangs. Still, to this day, the reason why I did it remains ambiguous. Some days, I convince myself that I did it just to break the cyclical life I live, other days I tell myself I did it just to annoy my parents, and most days I think I did it just for the thrill of it.

A few days into 2019, I cut my own bangs, and on that day I started to avoid who I was before them.

The bangs made it too obvious that I was changing and that I was different from who I was two years ago. Subtle variations in my appearance happened over the years, as they should have— I learned how to dress the way that felt most me, I got glasses that complemented the frame of my face, my teeth shifted from countless trips to the orthodontist. The usual changes that happen over the course of a couple years.

But the bangs. The bangs made it painfully clear: I’m not who I was two years, one year, one month, one week, one day ago. I’m not who I was yesterday, and I’m not who I will be tomorrow.

The pictures of myself that popped up on Snapchat started to scare me— did I really change that much? Did a stupid haircut derived from pure impulse scare me away from old photos? The old me?

Have I really been avoiding my own self?

I pick up the binoculars again, ready to face who I once was. Shakily shifting the binoculars into focus, it hits me harder than I thought it would.

It’s me from two years ago— a recognizable stranger.

I’m not completely changed; my features from two years ago resemble today’s. Blue eyes, blonde hair, glasses, braces. At first glance, a surface-level one, we look similar.

But then I zoom in.

And I see a stranger. Any recognition fades as the picture becomes clearer; my eyes look colorless and lifeless, and my hair is long because I didn’t dare cut it— I didn’t dare to be different than what everyone else was doing. I see the stranger walking with her head down, her face to the floor, her shoulders hunched, her arms across her stomach.

I follow the stranger’s strides with my eyes and watch her blur in and out of focus. I don’t think I like the stranger I’m seeing— she’s different than who I am right now. I notice that, now, I don’t walk the way she walks. Now, my head is up, and my arms glide in time with my strides. I notice that my eyes don’t resemble the strangers. Now, my eyes seem clearer, livelier, happier.

I watch the stranger; the unrecognition floods my veins with each step she takes. She’s slow, somber, strange. She isn’t who I am today.

I take one last glance at who I once was and start to slowly zoom out— the stranger fades until only her silhouette remains. I set the binoculars down, away from who I am today, in a box and close the lid.

Who I am today will eventually become another silhouette of a stranger, and I’ll need the binoculars to be reminded of how much I’ve changed— yet again.

I lock the lid of the box and wonder how many silhouettes I’ll see in my lifetime. Because I’m not who I once was, and I’ll always be in the process of who I will be.