I did a lot of cool shit in 2015. Here’s an inconclusive list of some of that shit:
- I got a job news blogging for TexasMonthly.com (like, they paid me U.S. dollars to blog)
- I graduated from college (with two degrees) (in four years)
- I was maid-of-honor in my best friend’s wedding
- I got an internship, which soon turned into a real job, at Fusion
- I moved from Texas to Brooklyn
- I went on several decent Tinder dates
- I got a job at Cosmopolitan.com
- I created a Facebook status that acquired more than 200 likes (personal best)
- I ran my first half marathon
- I started paying my own cell phone bill (I’m 22)
I’m so impressive! Are you impressed? That’s a lot of cool shit.
But that’s not what this is about. This is about something much cooler. This is about mirror selfies.
Sometime late last year, my friend Kelsey told me via G-chat that 2014 was the biggest year of her life. She is a year older than me. For her, 2014 was the year she graduated from college, adopted a dog, got married, moved from Texas to Washington DC, got a job with Vox, and did some other very cool things I probably don’t know about.
When Kelsey told me this, I was on the precipice of my own graduation year. Provided I didn’t fuck up too badly, I would graduate at the end of the next semester and *fingers firmly crossed* get a job that would pay me to live, probably outside of Texas.
Kelsey typed that 2015 would likely be that kind of year for me. A very big, if not the biggest, year. Expectations like this make me very anxious. Thinking of anything as a potential lifetime superlative is daunting and terrifying.
For example: The summer between sophomore and junior year of college, I went on a family vacation to Hawaii and then immediately left for a study abroad program in Salzburg, Austria, and spent an extra month traveling alone around Europe. Right before I left, my roommate poked her head out of her bedroom and said, like it was no big deal, “This will probably be the most exciting summer of your life!” I forgot a lot of things about that summer, but I remember standing in the living room of our shared apartment and wanting to undo my plans and put them off for some other time. Maybe in a decade, when I’d be smart and 30 instead of dumb and 20, I’d be more prepared to Really Appreciate something like the most exciting summer of my life.
Of course I couldn’t put a hold on my summer plans. I went on my family vacation and traveled around Europe for a month and a half. Wanting to thoroughly document my most exciting summer, I took a lot of pictures, held onto a lot of receipts and mementos, and kept a diary (which is sometimes written in terrible French, because I’m a fucking monster). If I want to see how much I spent on a pain au chocolat one day, I can do that. If I want to revisit some memory I had while sitting on the grass outside the Louvre, I can do that. It’s all documented—somewhat untidily—but like memories you keep in your brain, I don’t mind so much that it’s hard to navigate as long as it’s all there.
Documenting a trip is easy. Documenting a year that might possibly be the biggest of your life? That’s less easy. I hated that Kelsey was probably right—2015, a year in which I was merely 21–22, would likely be one of the biggest years of my life. Like my exciting summer, I couldn’t delay the things that would happen for me in 2015. How would I properly record the transformation that surely takes place in a year filled with personal achievements? I could’ve kept a diary, but I didn’t. I could’ve bought like 50 disposable cameras, but I didn’t. I could’ve tattooed some important shit on my body, like “LIVE LOVE LAUGH 2K15 HOOK ’EM HORNS,” but I didn’t.
Instead, I spent 2015 taking mirror selfies.
My mirror selfies from this year are the only consistent method of documentation I kept from January through December. They are staged in front of various mirrors, none of them especially scenic or memorable, but the mirror selfie isn’t about the mirror. It’s about the person (or sometimes people) in the mirror.
The best picture of yourself will never be a mirror selfie. The quality isn’t great and there’s a fucking iPhone smack in the middle of your chest or face. If you want a lovely portrait that documents what you really look like at the ripe age of 22, you ask someone else to take a photo of you with a nice camera in good lighting. But if you want to document a mood, like a time you felt like a bad bitch or liked your outfit or looked cool and no one was around to properly appreciate it, you take a mirror selfie.
I tweeted my first mirror selfie in 2013 (it was in my roommate’s mirror, I was wearing a green shift dress I bought at Goodwill) and wrote something apologetic with the picture. I anticipated criticism for putting a mirror selfie on the internet. I felt embarrassed for wanting to share a silly picture of myself. Cool and smart girls, I thought, shouldn’t take mirror selfies. I now know this isn’t true at all—mirror selfie shame is just the patriarchy punishing you for looking great and wanting to tell people about it. Rachel Syme writes extensively and eloquently about this in her incredible book, SELFIE:
“One should never have to ask anyone else why they are worthy of being seen. Every human is given a body and a face and then spends the rest of his or her life trying to feel at home there. Worthiness is part of the basic package.”
I didn’t share all of my mirror selfies from 2015. Most of them were taken at times when I most wanted to to be seen—when I felt either especially confident or especially alone. Both were major themes of this year (and maybe all years). Sometimes I’m not alone in my mirror selfies. Good friends make occasional appearances. Usually, though, it’s just me. Me, myself, and my mirror.
I joked (probably drunkenly) on New Year’s Eve that 2015 would be the Year of Mirror Selfies. But then I followed through. I’m glad that I did. Here are some of my favorite mirror selfies from 2015, a year filled with personal achievements and even more personal mirror self-portraits.