Dear Self | Self Portraits

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To the younger Annies, 

This is so strange to me, because I’m used to addressing you one at a time, and the fact that this is a proverbial convention of the former Annie Velenovskys has to be some sort of indicator of the start of self integration, where we can all chill out and be together in harmony. 

I feel like I haven’t always been totally fair to all of you. It’s easier for me to mentally embrace elementary school Annie in my minds eye and tell her that she didn’t deserve to feel worthless. But, when it comes to teenage Annies, there is definitely this sense of sympathy over empathy. I find myself saying, “You poor thing. You stupid thing.”

That isn’t fair. That isn’t wholehearted. 

You know before the Superchunk concert when you said that rule number one is that you don’t wear the band’s t-shirt to the concert? It totally becomes a running joke and still makes me laugh, but let’s talk about that for a second. 

You are so horrified of unadulterated joy. Because what is more vulnerable, honestly? Playing cool is totally one of your trademark walls for a couple of years. The good news is that in like a decade you would totally wear your favorite bands t-shirt to the concert, and be unfazed of how you look flailing around while wearing it. For real. 

I’m talking to you too, 2nd grade Annie. Ashamed of your visceral desire to sing and dance, so you hide it with headphones in your bedroom and lock the door. You refrain from singing along to Elton John and ABBA and Grease. I promise you that you don’t do that anymore (and you’re still listening to all of that). Your studio neighbors might think you’re a little obnoxious.

Leaning into joy when it comes is still something that you’re constantly working on, and I know you have so many scars. People in your life telling you to occupy less space. Be cool, dude. Don’t be so sensitive, you’re too much to handle. Be thinner, be more mysterious, don’t be enthusiastic or goofy, but don’t be a bitch either. 

I’m here to tell you that I know it SUCKS feeling invisible and lumbering at the same time, but that it gets better. You don’t have to play cool forever, and you never had to, but I’m tired of beating you up for that. You /are/ cool for who you really are and so creative, and I’m crazy grateful for where you have carried me into my young adulthood. 

The pain gets better, everything makes more sense. BPD recovery isn’t a pipe dream. Your photographic career isn’t either. 

You become the cool girl you always wanted to be, but even better. Each of you have made me into this wonderfully whole, intensely feeling, imperfect, loving being. Thank you, with everything in me. I love you always. 

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