Out of boredom and lack of imagination, I've developed a habit of mindlessly scrolling through various social media pages before going to bed to get a break from thinking about what I need to accomplish, what I'm avoiding, and events that have taken place over the course of the day.

One night I recently went through my photos, stretching over years of curated web space and I was reminded of the power of photography as a tool of communication. As a whole, the internet community consumes and disperses information by way of video, photos, memes, graphics, GIFs - it inspires humor, annoyance, and sometimes probes at our think tank that sits half empty in our heads. We use this media to communicate our thoughts, what is important to us, and representations of how we see ourselves - you can learn a lot about a person by what photos they use on dating apps, trust me.

"Listen, are you breathing just a little, and calling it a life?" - Mary Oliver

Some call the 'selfie culture' vain and uninteresting, but the idea of capturing images of yourself and the seemingly mundane moments of your life isn't something new. Our grandmothers lined their shelves and stuffed photo albums with as much ephemera as the pages could hold with school photos, band concert programs, bad scribbles on scraps of paper, and more. It is a reflection of a full life. Tangible evidence of the growth we've gone through, sometimes with the painful objectivity and truth that we can't grasp until stumbling across it later.

As I scrolled through my gallery, I saw remnants of a different person. The girl who spent thirty minutes finding the perfect picture in her dorm room seven years ago is a completely different woman who is viewing that picture now. The girl was insecure, held dissimilar beliefs to what I hold now, and a much more glamorous idea of how her life was going to turn out. The small reminder of a truth I've always known (that photographs are a glimpse into the past) lead me down a thought process that I hadn't before considered: acknowledging the transformations a person goes through in a span of time is one thing, but truly reflecting on them is another. Knowing I have changed is only the first step - have these changes been good? Have I grown as a person? Am I honest? Am I kind? Or was I better in the past than I am now? These are not easy questions. Self awareness comes with some pain and struggle but it is necessary for development.

Knowing I have changed is only the first step - have these changes been good? Have I grown as a person? Am I honest? Am I kind?

As the new year approaches, I'm going to think less about resolutions and more about tracking the path I take through pictures, journals, and art I make with my hands. I'm going to try to see myself, and the people around me, with clarity through the pieces of our lives that we leave behind.


Julia Rodriguez is self admittedly terrible at describing herself. She lives in Texas, helps organize a growing film festival, produces short no budget films, loves podcasts, and secretly disappears in her room for hours to write. To get a glimpse of the person she's evolved from and evolving to, follow her on Instagram.

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This article is part of our series on the theme of Reflection.

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Distilled from our Manifesto, positive psychology, the science of mindfulness, and ancient philosophic studies we have identified twelve themes core to living both fully and mindfully. We mapped these twelve themes to each of the twelve months in a year. Together with our community we explore one each month.