The girl in the photograph

Reflections of my teenage self

I was going to post this on my birthday, but the day got away from me and after two celebratory martinis at dinner, I was in no shape to write anything.   

The photo you see is more important than any modeling picture because it’s the only one that exists of me at that age. It was taken in Panama fifty years ago. I was seventeen. Wow. Just writing that throws me into panic mode. What happened to all those decades? I literally blinked…or fell asleep, Rip Van Winkle style, and suddenly, I’m in my sixth decade. I still feel just like the girl in the photograph and yet, my exterior belies it. 

After many years of false starts, in January of 2019 I sat down and wrote the story behind the photo. It was a period in my life that would define my character, shape my world, and alter the trajectory of my life.  

For more than a year I wrote every day, from dawn to dusk, surfacing occasionally to eat, sleep, and reassure myself that my husband and daughter hadn’t left me. When friends asked about my whereabouts, I told them I’d been busy writing. “Oh, about modeling?” they asked. “No,” I was quick to respond. While I’d been fortunate to experience a decades long career in the fashion industry and had spent half my life in front of the camera, it was the girl in the photo who interested me. Besides, unlike the exciting exploits of supermodels like Paulina, Christie, and Maye (mother of Elon) who have written about their rock star lives, seamless careers, and raising rocket geniuses, my modeling memoir would be more in keeping with Lemony Snicket’s, A Series of Unfortunate Events.  

After completing a gut-wrenching year of writing, I was fortunate enough to find representation  with a NY literary agent. For writers who desire traditional publication, literary agents are the gatekeepers in the publishing world. So, landing one is like having Simon Cowell hit the golden buzzer. When the confetti rains down, you are suddenly legitimized and granted access to a world that, heretofore, has remained inaccessible. 

I signed my contract a day before COVID hit the US. I don’t need to elaborate what happened next. The new normal arrived and never left. The publishing world was upended, along with plans for my book. 

In order to survive the disappointment and ignore the temptation to slit my wrists, I had to learn to pivot. I’m lucky in that I had a child late in life. Raising a teen has taught me the importance of remaining open and flexible and to always expect the unexpected. 

Twenty years ago, losing a publication deal after getting so close to the finish line would have devastated me. Fortunately, along with all the bad stuff this pandemic has caused, there are some positive things that have come along. I’ve learned to appreciate even the tiniest of victories and the sense of satisfaction I derive from those small successes. In other words, I’m grateful. And it is that feeling of gratitude that turns a feeling of failure into one of challenge, and one of challenge into one of action and one of action into one of manifestation. It may take me a bit longer than I thought to share my story but for now, it’s enough that the girl in the photo is more than just a face in a faded photograph.