On being … in the picture

By Ingrid Sapona

I was leafing through a magazine a while ago and as I turned a page, I noticed a full-page photo of a wide, inviting country road. While there was no one clearly visible on the road, there was the shadow of a hiker near the bottom. Anyway, it wasn’t really the picture that caught my eye so much as the heading on it, which I soon realized was the title of the article that started on the next page.

The title read:

The Road Ahead
These Outstanding Seniors are Setting Out for Futures in TV Comedy, Basketball Beat
Writing, Solar Cell Creating, Civil Rights Law, Global Health and More.

My attention switched gears as soon as I read the phrase: seniors setting out… No, the switch wasn’t an attempt to stifle a groan at the less than subtle connection between the image of the shadowy hiker and the words. What I was thinking about was something more like this: “Now why on earth would a senior want to try writing comedy?” and, “Isn’t it a bit too late to start law school when you’re a senior?”

Then, having ruled out the retirement pursuits of the seniors the article was obviously going to be about, I gazed at the now forlorn looking country road and wondered about my path in retirement. What new activities might I take up in retirement?  (I know, it’s still many years away, but if the past is anything to go by, it’ll be here quicker than I’d like!)

After a few minutes immersed in thoughts about my life path, my focus returned to the magazine and I turned the page to have a look at the article. When I saw a smaller photo floating on the page the article started on, I did a bit of a double take. That photo showed five smiling 20-somethings. It took me a moment to figure it out, but when I did, I laughed out loud. The seniors the article was about were university students, not senior citizens. Then I realized I was looking at my alumni magazine! Boy did I feel stupid…

But, that got me thinking about my subconscious mind and how quickly it made a “connection” between my life and what I thought was the subject of the article. Though I realized the connection was misplaced, I wondered how often my subconscious grinds away, making connections – right or wrong – that I’m unaware of. 

That brought to mind something I had read in a guide for writers and photographers working in the tourism industry. The guide said that photos for tourism destinations should include people because that helps people picture themselves there. When I read that, I disagreed because when it comes to travel photos, I’ve always been more attracted to the panoramic vistas – the iconic photo of snow-capped Mount Fuji off in the distance, ocean swells pounding a rugged coastal cliff, and so on.

As is often the case when something’s specifically pointed out to me, since then I notice people in all sorts of tourism-related photos. Whenever I do, I silently ask myself whether seeing them has made me want to be there. Generally, I don’t find that it does. That’s not to say, however, that such photos don’t touch me on a deeper level. Often they do, but not necessarily in the way the tourism folks intended. Sometimes seeing people in a photo turns me off because they make me think I wouldn’t fit in there!

Anyway, back to the headline about those seniors. Though my mind clearly went somewhere far from the topic the article was about, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The fact that the headline immediately connected with something in me and got me thinking is a reward in itself. The way I see it, my seeming disconnect wasn’t a disconnect at all. After all, I did have an immediate connection, which is what every editor hopes when they choose a photo or write a headline.

Believe it or not, the episode reminded me of my goal with On being… For you see, though each column purports to be about some quirky incident or event in my life, I don’t really expect you to relate to the actual incidents. Instead, my hope is that every so often something I’ve written tickles something in your subconscious, causing you to reflect on your life. In other words, regardless of the picture I might paint with On being … it’s really just meant to provide you with a backdrop to project your own reflections on...
© 2015 Ingrid Sapona


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