good life by brianna marshall
Part of cultivating a good life is rediscovering creativity and joy after heartache.
I was over the moon to be selected for this year’s Project Life® creative team. Stunned and delighted. However, that happy news just so happened to overlap with a significant life event: a breakup that I could have and should have seen coming but didn’t want to. Instead, I averted my eyes then feigned surprise as it disintegrated in front of me.
Prior to the long distance relationship, there was a shared apartment and a cat and a ring, eight years of history. Then suddenly the moment that demarcated that was then and this is now. Now being no more us: unthinkable at first, then as the weeks progressed, a raw, tender relief indeed, particularly when the sketchy timeline involving his snapchat superfriend was revealed. But this isn’t about the rage-inducing details, not today. This is about the scrapbooking.
I have been an obsessive documenter my entire life and part of the Project Life community for almost three years now. I have ten albums. When we broke up, I had just printed an entire year’s worth of photos – close to three thousand. I remember staring warily at those boxes of photos feeling like a fool, dreading the task of sifting through them. For the very first time, my experiences were not something I wanted to remember or relive.
Like everything else in life, there’s a necessary ebb and flow to engaging with the things we love. I all but avoided scrapbooking the first few months of the year, save pulling together photos for my monthly creative team layouts. I felt like a fraud, joyless about the process, procrastinating. To find photos of me I had to sift through the minefield of dozens of photos of us. And then to see how amazing my cohort was! They loved every second of documenting in a way I recognized but couldn’t touch. Their layouts were exquisite and artistic, while I struggled even to select what photos to stick into my pages. In truth, I felt burdened with my albums. Suddenly I felt the danger in putting my heart into documenting the details.
Sorting through my photos wasn’t a palatable prospect until one ordinary day when it suddenly seemed like the ideal way to spend an afternoon. Even in the misery of a breakup, I am not rash – I knew I would know what I wanted to do with all those photos at the right time. It was the right time. I wasn’t sad anymore. In fact, I had unearthed in myself a lighthearted, easygoing person that I had never really known before. I was open. I was spending my time laughing and connecting and learning. So this – this! – was happiness.
Little recognitions started to bloom: he was my subject matter, yes, but he wasn’t my only subject matter. Did I want to save him through my photos? Maybe. I think for many years I was subtly saying, “Your life is beautiful to me; be happy.” But it doesn’t work that way, not really. You have to choose it.
It felt right to jettison photos of him, creating a hefty stack to give to his mom. I felt industrious. Cleansed. I kept some photos of us, of course. I’m not looking to erase history, only modify it so my albums aren’t quite so heavily weighted toward him. There you are playing guitar. Playing video games. In that jacket I bought you. That trip I brought you on where you complained the whole time. Etc.
Does it mean I’ve moved on and that looking through my old albums isn’t painful in the least? That was my life and I’m still grateful to have documented everything I did. I haven’t stopped taking pictures. The days have continued ticking on by and it’s all the same mad flutter of activity that it always was.
Really this post is a love letter to Project Life. A thank you and a rediscovery. I suspected I would come back after the jolt of everything, but I didn’t know how I would feel. I am grateful to be surrounded by a wonderful community – not only the Project Life creative team, but also everyone who so enthusiastically shares their lives in this way. I was very close to not telling my story, but in the end I’m glad I did. I hope it will help anyone out there who may be facing any of the same feelings. You will get through whatever is happening to you and you will be better because of it. So much love for you all.
Brianna is a member of our 2015 Creative Team. She lives in Wisconsin where she works for the University of Wisconsin.