By Miranda Wehde '14
This paper was written for Intersections: Global Perspectives on Human Nature in fall 2010. For this assignment, the student chose a symbol that reflected the development of her identity. In exploring the connections between her symbol and her self, she also reflected on identity more broadly. This particular paper was creative, insightful, well written, and a joy to read!
I lost my first passport 318 days ago, and while I doubt I lost the person whose picture is located on those pages almost a year ago, that girl is just as void as that passport. The nervous high school freshman pictured in her cheerleading uniform is no longer who I am. The (attractive) boys getting their pictures taken for their passports in front of me don’t matter anymore. That hair, which I insisted I needed to have long to reaffirm that I was indeed a feminine girl (despite the fact that I can count on one hand how many times I wore it down that year), has long been turned into a wig for locks of love. Most importantly, the ignorant smile on that girl’s face has been wiped off, replaced with one surrounded by stress acne and wrinkles weary of the thoughts I know those boys are probably thinking.
It is pretty typical that I would lose my passport. I consistently forget my bike around campus, and it seems my forgetfulness is something that will probably never change about me. I replay that fateful day more often than any other part of my trip to London, and I can never quite place where or when I lost it exactly. Did I lose it on the train to Terminal D? Maybe, I set it down in the seating area for my flight back to Iowa and was too occupied by how annoying my parents were to remember to pick it up. Another, highly unlikely, possibility could be that someone stole it. Did a pickpocket take it?
If a pickpocket had taken it, that would make for a really cool story. I’m sure if I had caught them in the act, they would have been very sorry. I would have used stellar sprinting skills to chase them, then tackling them with my muscles. Actually, if someone did steal my passport, I probably wouldn’t have done any of those things. I simply wish I were capable of such confrontations. Instead, I have to be comforted by the irony that pickpockets are my favorite abdominal exercise and a pickpocket possibly took my passport.
In a way, it’s probably all for the best that I lost that little blue book. Similar to the stamps disappearing from my life, the friends I visited those places with have disappeared as well. Amanda and Allison are no longer the people I thought I knew, Andrea is crazier than ever, Melanie became the person she always claimed she was, and Emily proved to be my best friend. The stamps are out of my sight, and gradually the places are out of mind, just like my friends who all live more than two hours away.
It is a sad realization one comes to: that something you held close to your heart can be gone in the matter of a few forgetful moments. I still wonder which bothered me more: the fact that I was capable of losing something so important or actually losing the tiny book that contained everything that said I belong here. Without the activities I once thought defined me, how can I prove that I do in fact belong at Central? It was sad realizing that without band, speech, student government, or cheerleading to define my behavior, I didn’t know who I was or how to act.
While the pages in that book appear to be simply paper, a closer look would reveal that they are protected, as to not tear or stain. The longer I’m here at Central, I gradually realize the same about myself. Sometimes I feel as if my personality has been ripped and is deteriorating like the book you left on the deck as you rushed inside to beat the summer storm. At times, I feel as if I am rushing, trying to beat that storm, but when I slow down and embrace the cool drops of water, I find myself. When I let myself dawdle I realize that my pages are still the same; they just have some new stamps.
My new passport doesn’t have as many stamps as the old one, but maybe that is just as well. It forces me to appreciate every stamp I get in a way I had previously forgotten. This new book has one lonely visa from Egypt. This could be a result of the fact that I’ve had it for about eight months or because I learned that the things and the places that are most important aren’t that far from home. As worldly as my previous passport painted me, while abroad, I always remembered how down to earth I really am, which this new passport shows more accurately.
Having the one stamp –sticker, actually – from Egypt couldn’t be any more perfect in my mind. I always love taking trips off the beaten path (one word: AFRICA), but not so far off the path that the likelihood of death is up there on the list of possible outcomes (Egypt is the most developed country in Africa). I would much rather go for a bike ride to Lake Red Rock than go to the mall, and similarly, I would much rather watch Singin’ In the Rain than the newest Katherine Heigl romantic comedy. When it comes to actors like Gene Kelly, my love is as old as the pharaohs of ancient Egypt.
This new book properly shows my uniqueness, my previous passport looking more like the atypical college student’s dream backpacking trip through Europe, rather than telling the story of my old soul. Traveling to the home of one of the oldest civilizations in the world is far more fitting than staying in a resort village in the Alps. My longing to be close to the roots of civilization was fulfilled, momentarily, while visiting Egypt, while I was left wanting more in Europe. Why would I want to have the same adventure as everyone else when I could be carving a path for myself in Africa?
While losing my passport did have me confused for a period of time, I’m gradually realizing that it was all for the best. I now know how to fill out the application for passports very well, and my social security number is most definitely memorized. While those friends and places are gradually disappearing just as that book disappeared, I’m making new friends in new places, and there are plenty of open pages for the adventures that have yet to come. Much like the best traveling advice told to me, I have to remember that “no matter how bad it gets, you will make it through, and it will always make for a great story.”