Chris DeLine

Cedar Rapids, IA

The Rearview Mirror

Published in Blog.

While it’s not something I’ve done much of the last few years, taking photos has been a big part of the past decade and a half for me. With 2020 fast approaching, I used the last 50 days to post 50 photos from the last 15 years on Instagram. I couldn’t tell you what I hoped to gain from the process when I began—if anything, my mind was probably geared toward a little emotional molting—but completing the project has inspired some thoughts this morning about losing sight on what’s directly in front of me that I’d like to share.

I don’t quite have a handle on where I’m at with it all, but the deeper I went into the memories over the past several weeks, the more I got caught up in detours. In selecting the pictures I found myself judging their aesthetics, thinking about how they might be received by others, and curious about whether the stories that the photos represent to me genuinely tell the story of what my life has been like. In reflection, it feels like subconsciously weaponizing snapshots from the past to harvest social dividends in the here and now. This must be why they say ‘If you have to go up into your own head, don’t go alone,’ as you can see what kind of mental webs I’m prone to getting caught in.

I hope 2020 will be a good year. It’s got a lot of potential—the way I’m lookin’ at it—though much of that contingent on letting go of what once was, and being present right here, right now. As easy as it is to look back and toy around with nostalgia, this little project has shown me how much of a trap doing so can be. It might be true that to know where you’re going you’ve got to know where you’ve been, but it’s also true that to keep moving forward the mind can’t remain forever focused on the past lives that lurk in the rearview mirror.