Free to have fun

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A couple of weekends ago, I volunteered at the Old Town Kemptville BIA Christmas event. I clocked in at 10:00 am at the Library, and spent the morning manning a fire barrel at Rotary Park, along with a couple of other volunteers, helping kids (and adults) roast marshmallows and make s’mores.

It was a chilly day, but we were kept warm by the fire and hot coffee provided by Brewed Awakenings, but, most of all, by Christmas cheer. The BIA had organized a slew of carolling groups in Rotary Park to entertain passers-by, including the Kemptville Sparks, Brownies and Guides. Christmas carols filled the air as the warm fire crackled and popped, providing a comforting location for people to wait for their turn on the horse-drawn carriage hired for the event. Children left our station with sticky hands, faces smeared with chocolate, and smiles from ear to ear.

It was impossible not to be in the Christmas spirit. I love the downtown, and nothing does my heart more good than seeing the streets filled with people enjoying themselves. So, when BIA Chair, Debbie Wilson, asked if she could take my photo, I didn’t hesitate. I gave her my best smile as she snapped the photo and then went back to my duties, pumping children with sugar and making sure their parents were caffeinated.

I left the event after my shift feeling great. A bit chilly, but happy, I took the time to get out and spend some time in the community. I got home, had some lunch and settled in to editing my articles for that week, as I usually do on a Saturday. When I opened my computer, I started scrolling through Facebook and came across the photo of me from the morning. My heart sank and a large lump formed in my throat. I HATED the photo. My elf hat (which I was originally super excited to wear) was covering my eyes, my cheeks looked chubby and my coat was bulging with all the layers that I was wearing underneath to keep warm. I looked like the Michelin man.

I instantly regretted the whole morning. How could I have gone out looking like that, let alone felt happy and confident? I wanted to crawl into a hole and never come out.

But, the more I thought about it, the more I thought: So what? Does it really matter that I don’t really like how the photo turned out? Why did this one photo have to ruin my entire day and rob me of the fun few hours I had volunteering in the community? The truth is, it doesn’t.

I know I am not alone when it comes to having a complicated relationship with photos. I have met many people who refuse to have their photo taken, claiming that they just aren’t photogenic. I often think: what a shame it is when one person in a group stands to the side as everyone else gathers together to take a photo, robbing themselves of their place in what was probably a pretty great memory with family or friends. All because of their fear of not liking what they see in the end product.

What ultimately helped me move on after seeing the photo of me taken at Old Town Kemptville Christmas was remembering how I was feeling when the photo was taken. I felt happy, confident and glad that I was helping people in my community have a fun day downtown. I wasn’t thinking about my “chubby” cheeks, or the size of my thighs. In fact, I wasn’t thinking about my body at all.

This Christmas, I am going say yes to photos, no matter how uncomfortable I am. I challenge you to do the same. Choose to focus less on how you might feel about how you look in the photo, and more about documenting memories made with family and friends. Because that’s what really matters. Volunteering at Old Town Kemptville Christmas made me happy, because I know I contributed to a great event that made a lot of other people happy too. For me, spreading joy at this time of year trumps looking good in a photo any day. Don’t you agree?

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