Monday, October 22, 2007

Where are you going, where have you been?

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.


Belle said...

You too do the passport reflection! My problem is that I tend to lose passports like other people lose paperclips. Expensive little beasties.

The worst is that I lose the record of my travels. The pictures, I can do without. But I'd love to know precisely when I went to Skiathos, and when to Vienna, Berlin, Munich. That single passport - lost of course - contained a lot of reminders.

Anonymous said...

the 80s *did* come late to the west coast!! i remember those fashions in that time period as well growing up. and can i say i am so jealous you're going to italy!

Tiruncula said...

Hey - Some of your best blogfriends are forty-fucking-two! :-)

Flavia said...

T: Oh, but you're forty-AWESOME-two! It's not the age--it's whether I'll have actually done anything much by then (you, on the other hand, have had all kinds of excellent careers and adventures and are gearing up for more).

Tiruncula said...

Ok, am assuaged :-). I expect that you will be a fairly awesome 42-year-old yourself, when the time comes.

Anonymous said...

i got my passport in the mail the other day, too. the patriotic pages and quotes-- so cheesy, it's almost awesome. i'm actually sad to let my old passport go-- it had a lovely sticker picture of me and miss al back in 1999 (i think?), the year we were obsessed with taking those neoprint pictures. the sticker picture on there was a picture of me and miss al proudly displaying our passports before a big trip to europe. very meta, right? here's to wishing you many delicious trips abroad with your new passport.

Anonymous said...

I was going to chime in about the age thing, but Tiruncula beat me to it!

My passport makes me a little sad, since I got it renewed a couple of years ago so that I could lead the St. Martyr's semester abroad trip to Fabulous European City, a trip that got canceled as part of the whole ugly debacle there. And I haven't been anywhere else since then, so it's a pristine passport with nary a stamp in it. And I'm not sure when that's going to change either. Sad.

(The title of this post is one of my least favorite stories ever -- gives me the creeps every time I see the words, which is too bad 'cause it's such a great title.)

medieval woman said...

I love the passport as a catalyst for reflection! I feel the same way - even though there are lots of stamps to Holland (in-laws, friends-in-law, etc.) - I hope I'll travel more on this one!

Btw, when in the UK this summer?? Any chance of a meet up??