The Picture Hoarder

As a kid, I was never into video games like my sisters were. They had their own Nintendo DS, but I never cared for one. I was more into TV shows, talking on the house phone with my friends, drawing fake Myspace’s for my Bratz dolls (yes, you read that right), and taking pictures. Back in the day it was a ritual to bring a disposable camera (holy shit, that makes me feel old. Haha) to school events. It was especially a must to bring a camera to the last day of school. I brought a disposable camera every last day of school since the third grade. The last day of school always gave me mixed emotions. I was happy to be out of school and on summer break, but at the same time I was sad that I wouldn’t be seeing my friends as often, because some even moved away. Also, the next school year didn’t guarantee that my friend group would be put in the same class. I was happy to have my camera to take pictures in the present moment of all the fun, friends, and memories.

I loved to document all of my last days of school, family parties, field trips, and special events. Getting my pictures developed at Costco was one of my highlights for the summer. Especially with the disposable cameras – you just never know how the pictures are going to turn out. Then in the 7th or 8th grade, I invested in a digital camera. I saved up all of my money for this purchase, and was so excited to take it to school and family events. I’ve always been a photo hoarder, but getting the camera really stepped up my game. It gave me the opportunity to not only have the pictures as hard copies, but digital copies as well. I was so hyped to buy SD cards for my camera to make sure that I always had them backed up online, and on a chip. Deleting photos was really hard for me, and on an 8th grader salary, buying SD cards got pricey. But I did it anyways because I refused to delete memories even if they were uploaded online.

Now as an adult, my obsession with saving pictures is basically the same – but grew as technology got better. My partner doesn’t get why I feel the need to keep pictures of basically the same thing from different angles. I’m that friend that wants more than 1 picture from different angles and heights, but will still keep them all regardless. I’ve gone to the extent of getting a 200 GB SD card for my phone, but also backing everything up on the computer and on my phone that I pay for yearly for storage. That’s basically thousands of photos and videos saved on 3 different platforms – and I wouldn’t want to have it any other way. I have had my fair share of files being deleted, phone being stolen, and XYZ that has resulted in me losing my pictures. When it’s time to get a new phone, I always try to make sure that nothing will get deleted. That’s honestly one of my worst fears because my photos mean so much to me.

I love pictures – even if I’m not in them. I’m an extremely sentimental person, and even at a young age I’ve felt the need to preserve and remember memories and certain points in my life. Subconsciously, I am keeping all of my pictures because I know that there will be a time where I look back and some people won’t be with me anymore, or times have changed, or people have moved away. Pictures make me super happy to look back on, but can also give me an overwhelming feeling of sadness, knowing I can never go back to those moments and relive it with the people in the pictures. It’s like reliving parts of my life, or seeing my life from my point of view. When moments pass, all we have are memories and pictures.

I guess in a way, I fear that I will forget. That’s why I find it hard to delete pictures that ultimately have no importance. Like a picture of the sky, or a sign, or my food, all of these things that I can do without on my backup system that would clear a lot of room on my $29.99 a year for 200 GB. But I love getting little notifications letting me see what I did on that day 4 years ago, and so forth, even if it is random everyday mundane things. I’m so busy pushing forward, trying to get to the next goal, next stage in my life, that looking back on what was is comforting. It’s nice to live in the moment, but also have something to look back on, like a little souvenir from that occasion.

Especially with my 97 year old Tatay, pictures are important. Pre-COVID, my extended family would visit and have dinner at Tatay’s every other Sunday. But since COVID, we have yet to have another family gathering in his house, especially since he is high risk. Stopping these visits really took a toll on his memory and health. When my family and I stop by to say hi for less than 5 minutes, he doesn’t remember us with masks on. Recently, we’ve been showing him photos of him and us, or him and his other grandchildren, in hopes that it will trigger some memory. I’m happy to dig through my collection and hope to find something that will get him to remember us.

I’m notorious for saving close to every picture I take on my camera roll to my SD card and then backing them up to my cloud. I am fully aware and admit that I am a memory hoarder. It’s such a mix of emotions, knowing that you’re living in the moment and documenting what is happening right then and there. And then weeks, months, years down the road you forget about that memory until you come across those photos again. And you relive those moments, remembering the little things, down to your outfit, how those shoes were bothering you because you were just breaking them in, what food you were eating, how you got there because you took a picture in your Uber, and all these little details that would’ve been forgotten. And for a moment, you’re taken back to that time. I love getting those little reminders like, “8 years ago on this day you were doing this…” It gives me a second to pause, and appreciate the memories I made and documented with the people I was closest to at the time. I’m very sentimental in that way. And sometimes I picture myself as an old woman, when I’m about Tatay’s age, looking through all the pictures that I’ve backed up over the years, remembering all the good times, all the people that were a part of my life, reminiscing and trying to remember the life I lived.

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