Kodak Moments

It’s safe to say that I have a picture-taking problem.

It started way back in 7th grade, when I got my first digital camera for Christmas. Complete with a super cool translucent purple case and approximately 1 MB (if that) of memory, this little camera helped me discover my love for amateur photography… and the importance of proper lighting. (If there wasn’t enough light, the camera wouldn’t take a picture.) Poor quality aside, this camera acted as the gateway drug to my picture-taking obsession. I was hooked.

For Christmas my sophomore year of high school, my parents upgraded me to a Kodak EasyShare, so I could capture the (mis)adventures my dad and I would have during our upcoming ten-day trip to Germany. The camera did its job well, although unfortunately I looked terrible in most of the pictures. (Growing out your hair for “locks of love” without owning a blow dryer or straightener can have that effect). But despite my *cough* less-than-stellar appearance, the pictures of Germany turned out great.

... case in point.
… case in point.

Although my formative photographic experiences came from these first two cameras, my picture-taking obsession reached all-new heights during my junior year of college. Before I left for a semester in Austria, my parents presented me with a brand new Canon Digital ELPH camera and a massive memory card. During the next six months, this little camera experienced about six-years’ worth of wear, so that by the end of the semester, the case was scratched, the front cover was held on by a strategically placed purple rubber band, and I had taken more than 20,000 pictures. This led many of my friends to refer to me as the unofficial photographer of Erasmus and to say that “if Steffi didn’t take a picture of it, then it didn’t happen.” Which, honestly, wasn’t far off the mark.

Mirek and I became the unofficial photographers of Erasmus. :)
Mirek and I became the unofficial photographers of Erasmus. 🙂

My picture-taking tendencies have oscillated in the last few years, with peaks, such as during my time at the Kanakuk Institute, and lows, such as when school is in session. And yet while I’ve become slightly less anal about photographing (literally) everything, I still love to capture my experiences… even if I’m terrible about uploading them to Facebook, haha. But although this photography obsession has often come in handy, such as when I was responsible for “Social Media” at Kamp or for my mom’s annual Christmas card, this compulsive need to photograph things actually points to a deeper, more complicated problem: I want to hold onto the present forever, and I really, really, really don’t like change.

And as fate would have it, I am about to experience a whole bunch of changes all at once: I am leaving Atlanta for 14 months and moving to Berlin for my dissertation research. When I came to graduate school, the year of research in Germany seemed like the best part of the program. After all, ever since I’d returned from Austria, I’d been looking for ways to go back to Europe. That’s why I’d applied for the Fulbright, and that’s one of the reasons I chose to study European history. And although I realize that this next year in Berlin will be full of wonderful new adventures with incredible new people, I can’t help but look at my already wonderful life and my all-too incredible friends and want to enjoy this leg of the journey for a little while longer. In the last three years, I have come to love Atlanta, with its many quirks, its terrible humidity and pollen season, and its abysmal traffic. Despite its many idiosyncrasies, this city has become my new home.

But though I dread it—and I hate to think about it—the reality is that I am leaving. In just a few days, I’ll head up I-75 with my parents and say goodbye to Atlanta for more than a year. Ready or not, the transition is coming, and there’s nothing I can do to stop it.

I know that everything will be okay, that I’ll keep in touch with my friends, and my life will be waiting for me when I get back. But it doesn’t change the fact that my heart hurts, and I am very, very sad. And in the midst of this sadness–and anticipation of sadness, which is almost worse–I keep coming back to this Switchfoot song, which I think at least partially captures how I feel:

Here’s to the twilight
here’s to the memories
these are my souvenirs
my mental pictures of everything
Here’s to the late nights
here’s to the firelight
these are my souvenirs
my souvenirs

[…]

I close my eyes and go back in time
I can see you smiling, you’re so alive
I close my eyes and go back in time
you were wide-eyed, you were wide-eyed
we were so young, we had no fear
we were so young, we had just begun
a song we knew, but we never sang
it burned like fire inside our lungs
and life was just happening (and nothing lasts, nothing lasts forever)
and life was just happening (and nothing lasts, nothing lasts forever)
I wouldn’t trade it for anything
my souvenirs

The pictures I take—and the memories they symbolize—are souvenirs of my life in Atlanta, visible reminders of the people and city I have come to love. And even though I know that, during this next year, I will inevitably look at them and feel sad, I hope that God will help me see these pictures and be grateful. Because my pain, though unpleasant, proves that these people and this place mean something to me. No one grieves the loss, even temporary, of something insignificant. And so while it stinks to say goodbye, I’m grateful that I have so many people to miss. And I look forward to that day 14 months from now, when I’ll be reunited with them and this quirky city we call home. In the meantime, I will look at my photos, I’ll pray for these friends, and I’ll keep in touch with them as best as the 6-hour time difference will allow.

And while I’m in Germany, I’ll also take a lot of pictures. After all, I have a reputation to maintain. 😉

camera and me

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