Free of Comparisons: A Personal Narrative

PHOTO BY: Arianna Stahlbaum. I saw this angel in a shop window and loved the mood the light hitting its wings created. We are angels mourning in our own darkness.

Taking night photography with anything but a low aperture is not the most thrilling activity. A friend visiting from Canada called for a casual occasion of a downtown Corvallis nighttime photo shoot with some of our other photographer friends. I, without my 1.4 nifty-fifty, grabbed my 24-70 4.0 lens, hoping I’d get something, anything, half decent. 

Rather than letting a long day of inconveniences, bad moods, and isolating thoughts kill my creativity, I submitted to the restriction and took it as a challenge. 

I was unhappy with my lens choice but decided to use its macro settings the whole night, hoping my gloom could shine through my photos. 

Why force something that isn’t there? No dancing lights from shop windows or portrait-style silhouettes. Instead, a new perspective to outlet depression and self-hatred. 

Maybe allowing myself to grieve and express through this photo restriction will help bring me peace. 

Boxing up grief and pain, wrapping them in cute wrapping paper and selecting a matching bow to complete the look, brings peace only temporarily. We have to stop ourselves from packaging these things.

Rather than unwrapping each nightmare that stays tucked away in drawers we keep locked within our imaginations, we tell ourselves to “forget and move forward” and not to “mind the gap between reality and the ability to mask it.”

I untied a bow of comparison, which then led to the self-hatred. During this evening out, I let people know I was hurting. I had them around just for the company and a distraction. But I was able to talk, reflect, and wallow in the emotions linked to that dreaded “He did it this way”;

‘He’ is an individual who worked a multimedia position at my place of work, prior to my hire. 

‘He,’ a constant stick in my back being brought up time and time again. 

‘He’ is good, making me feel small and insignificant in comparison.

‘He’ is good, but I am different. 

Ironically, one of my friends that night was also stuck in the same comparison game. As I battled my own, I told her, “Stop comparing yourself to him. I’m doing it. It sucks. Escape while you can. You can be better, develop your own style, work with what you have, and love what you do. His work should not define yours.”

I never believe myself when these words echo in my head, but by identifying my disbelief and encouraging myself with my truth, I will escape. 

We are not others before us and we are not those we look up to — we are us. Us are in the experiences, the ideas, the drive, us is me. Me is my own person. Me is a person who has a different vision and is learning in a unique manner from those before me. This is I. I am me.

I am not ‘He’, and I should never be, because I can be better if I truly believe. 

And you should not be ‘He’, for ‘He’ is his own, and you are your own. You should be free. 

Free from comparison; free to be you.

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