I received my new passport in the mail the other day--just two weeks after sending in my application, thankyouverymuch, U.S. Department of State!--and after getting over the hideous graphics (eagles, flags, amber waves of grain) and quotations about liberty and so forth, I dug out my two earlier passports to compare their format and layout and to think a bit about where I've been and where I might be going.
One place I've been and don't want to go back to: long permed hair and feathered bangs, which is the look I'm sporting in the passport that I got at age 17 (the eighties, apparently, came late to the west coast, because this was in 1992). I'm also rocking a headband, weird dangly earrings, and frighteningly large eyebrows. I got that passport before going to Japan on a six-week exchange program between my junior and senior years of high school, and the second and final time I used it was four years later, between my junior and senior years of college, when I decided to spend a month travelling around the U.K. by myself, interrupted by a short jaunt to Belgium to see The Expat. (On that trip I got continual shit from the passport control people, who would scrunch up their faces before allowing that, maybe, I could be the girl in the photo.)
My second passport, though it's now ten years old, bears a photo that's still recognizable as me, albeit with longer hair and softer, more tentative features. My expression, too, looks tentative--I look young. I remember being delighted with that passport, for both its photo (at some abrupt moment in my life I went from being completely unphotogenic to looking better in photos than I do in person) and its sense of promise. I was planning a trip to Paris for a week over Thanksgiving--my first vacation from my new, grown-up job! and I was going to Paris!
But that passport--or maybe it was my life--didn't quite live up to its potential. Back in 1997 I was certain that I'd go somewhere new every year or two, but I became mired in debt and then mired in grad school and didn't go abroad again until 2004, when I spent two weeks in Korea visiting HK. A research trip to the U.K. a few months later and a conference in an unnamed European country in 2005 made me think I might make good on at least some of my early promise as an international glamor girl--but instead I wound up running down the clock on that passport with only another research trip to the U.K. this past summer to show for it.
But! Now I have this new passport, with its awful graphics and a not-terrible photo and a whole lot of blank pages. I'm planning a trip to Italy in the spring and hopefully I'll be back in London this summer for a conference--but what about the next nine years? Where will I have gone and where the hell (or who, or what) will I be then?
Other, I mean, than forty-fucking-two years old.