As I’ve mentioned before, I really love Christmas. I know it’s a month-post holiday season, but I am only just now pulling out the new toy that Santa left for me. I was very good last year.
The toy in question is a VHS/DVD recorder. It allows you to transfer VHS material onto DVD. Why am I so excited for this piece of potentially soon-to-be outdated technology?
When I was growing up, my parents had one of the original home video recorders- I still remember it, as it was like a tank of machinery that had to be held on one’s shoulder so that you could look through the viewfinder to make a VHS recording.
Kind of like this:
Think about that for a minute, all you sweet little kiddos out there who aren’t that much younger than me, yet have only ever had to lift up your smart phone and switch to “Video” mode in order to capture your adventures. I’m quite sure everyone who used these things enough ended up with a case of over-developed right bicep syndrome. It was quite the task.
In addition to the treasure trove that is our collection of every Christmas/Birthday/Halloween/Preschool Pageant between 1988 and 1996, I also had my own video camera (a much later, less heavy-yet still substantial- model) which collected its own set of memories from 2001-2005. I am incredibly eager to put them all on DVD so as to bring these gems with me into the future.
Let me tell you, I have nearly fainted from laughter at my early-year antics. I was quite the ham.
In the same way that it is odd to hear yourself played back from someone’s voicemail, it is pretty weird to watch a previous version of yourself on screen.
It is even stranger to watch yourself if you currently have a chronic illness while the you on screen does not.*
It’s a little trippy.
*I think of my official “Got Sick” date as December 2002/January 2003. That was when I started fainting all the time and began the parade of doctors trying to figure out what was wrong with me. It may have started sooner, it may have been inside me my whole life and just got switched “on” at that time, there is no way to know. The “Got Sick” date is only a reference point of when my symptoms became (incredibly, overwhelmingly) visible.
The videos I have been watching while trying to work out some sort of organizational system for their transfer to DVD have all been “Before” videos.
It doesn’t phase me to watch the early ones- I was a loud, bouncing ball of energy who talked too fast and danced around a lot (and did I mention, I was loud?). It was so long ago that I really don’t remember, plus they are terribly silly (Sample line from Christmas 1993, when I am 4: (My sister just opened the dress I got her) “Isn’t it beautiful, Samie? I just knew you would love it, so I got it for you so that you would love it!”).
It gets…harder? Weirder? More confusing-er?… to watch the videos from 2001/2002. Mostly these consist of videos made at sleep over and/or birthday parties with my friends in which we sing an incredible amount of karaoke with my karaoke machine.
An INCREDIBLE amount of karaoke.
Sure, it’s fun to watch and see how different, yet strangely the same, we all are.
But some part of me can’t help but watch for something else…
Am I pale? Not abnormally so, not yet.
Do I get tired more quickly than my friends? No, if making our own version of the Tae-Bo workout tapes at 2 in the morning is any indication.
Is there anything, any tiny little thing, that points to how my whole life is going to change in just a few short months after my January-born friend’s surprise party that we threw in April?
The answer is no, which feels like a good thing and bad thing at the same time.
Good, because there was nothing we could have done.
Bad, because there was nothing we could have done.
The “After” videos cement this whole trippy experience. By New Year’s Eve 2002, I am so pale, I’m nearly translucent. I try really hard to keep up with the karaoke marathon, but I have to sit, and unsuccessfully try to get my friends to slow down and do so too. I’m visibly sweaty, wearing a tank top and thin sweatpants, while everyone else is in flannel. The “After”-ness is pretty apparent.
Whereas I once brought my video camera everywhere with me, I stopped filming altogether after that date until my sister’s senior orchestra concerts 3 years later.
For a moment, it makes me sad, as I am sure any Chronic feels sad when they think about their own “Before” and “After.” I know what comes next: the years of not really knowing what my illnesses were, of not having the words to explain myself and therefore having a really rough time in high school. My illnesses weren’t properly recognized and treated until 2009 and after (I graduated high school in 2007), so there is a long time of <yuck> in there.
Then, on the other hand, having this amazing time capsule of video memories of my past life makes me think that I can change where I put the line. Previously, my “After” has always been measured as an “After… I got sick.” However, I can move that around for any number of reasons- “After… we moved,” “After… elementary school,” “After…I cut all of my hair off.” Whatever!
I don’t need to keep measuring my life as a whole by where my illnesses came in.
And really, I have a smart phone now. It has a very easy-to-use video camera feature. Perhaps I’ll have a karaoke party, and start measuring everything pre-2015 as “Before.”
“Before…I realized I could be a person first, a Chronic second.”
Maybe I’ll point to this moment, right now, and say everything that came next was “After…I got over myself.”
Either way, I’m glad to have my tapes, my soon-to-be DVD’s. It’s nice to know where I’ve come from, but now I’m more excited about where I’m going.
Do you have your own video library, Chronic friends? Is it weird to see, hear, or think of yourself before the onset of your illness? Do you feel like a different person now? I’d love to hear your thoughts here in the comments or over on my Facebook page!