Dec 1, 2011 by

It began last night . . . my passport troubles.  First?  The good news.  I need a new passport.  My current one is expiring and with plans to do some sunning and funning in Mexico with friends soon, I need to renew it.  So, last night I walked through the chill of the Seattle evening to Rite Aid where I had my photo taken.  Presto.  No big deal.

“Did you get your picture done?” Marc asked when he arrived home.

“Yep!” I said, pulling them out of the bag.  “It only cost $8.”

“They didn’t cut it?”

“Huh?  Uh, no.”

“For $8?  You should have come up to my job.  It was a dollar . . . and precut.”

“It’s not a big deal .  . .  that extra $7 would have been gas money and, besides, I’m perfectly capable of cutting the picture.  How hard can it be?”

Pretty damn, apparently.

This morning I woke up intending to go to the post office early to express mail our applications given the brevity of time between processing our applications and our travel dates.  After a steaming cup of coffee, I thought my eyes clear enough and hands steady enough to make the cut.  Using Marc’s cheaper, stellar and “precut” picture as my guide, I cut around his photo to cut out my own and . . . and . . . whoops, mine wasn’t centered.  By lots.

Crap!  This won’t work . . . they’re so picky about this.  Grateful that there was a second photo, I grabbed it and prepared to try again . . . the pressure was on this time.

One side.

Two sides.

The third side.

Crap!  (And, yes, this is the bad news.) Not only had I cut my photo crookedly, but Marc’s, which had been my guide, too. (Fortunately, he had two.)  It was most definitely NOT the 2×2 that is required by the Department of State.  It was shy.  Obsessing.  Now I’m obsessing.

“Do you think they will accept it?”

I must have asked at least three friends this morning over the phone looking for an assurance I knew they couldn’t give.  Each one, wisely said, I don’t know . . .

It wasn’t worth the risk of being unable to enjoy margaritas on the beach over an off-centered or under-sized photo.

I called the United States Department of Passport Services and, after pressing and re-pressing one number or the other, got through to a friendly and helpful human being.   I told her my dilemma about my off-centered and too-small pictures and she said that I absolutely needed to have it retaken.  Further, she informed me that because I was applying for a renewal of my passport before its actual expiration date, that I needed to enclose a letter of explanation along with my (unfolded) application or else it would be rejected . . .

Did I know that . . . ?

Nooo.  No, I did not.

I typed the letter, put make up on my face and walked to the nearest Bartell’s this time to have my picture taken, and I did . . . six times.

It started pleasantly enough, with the petite brown-skinned, silky haired photo assistant instructing not to smile as she peeked at me through the camera in her white lab coat and counted, “one, two, three”.  Simple.  But when the film was developed, the exposure was too bright, so we did it again.  And again.  And again.  And again.

Each picture had that same washed out, “I looked like the light-skinned Michael Jackson” effect.  Sigh.  Lifting my head from my hands where my elbows rested on the counter in exasperation, I notice a “passport picture stool” with a “passport picture stool” sign posted on its seat behind the counter.

“You need to sit me on this,” I said, rather flatly.  “It puts greater distance between me, your subject, and the fluorescent lights glowing over my head.”

And after one more picture, perfectly developed this time, I walked out of Bartell’s with a free photograph and 47 minutes less of my day.  Thankfully, the experience at the post office was rather pleasant.

All this, for a passport.

In ways not at all dissimilar from my passport plight, I’m learning that if I want to live broader than I’ve lived, occupy new and as yet unexplored territory in my own heart, mind and spirit, or be willing to see life as lived through the experience of another and not just from within the safety of my own borders – borders that might not serve any more, or that for one reason or another, feel suddenly too small, too incorrectly rendered, or too safe – then I have to be willing to do whatever it takes to journey from one place to another.

That might mean unearthing deeply rooted stakes in the ground that once marked my territory . . . all familiar and comfortable.  It might mean that I say good-bye to some people or some things that are unwilling, for whatever reason, to go along with me as I journey out and ahead.  It might also mean that I piss some people off who are sad or mad to see me go.

Whatever else it means, I know it also means this; wherever I go, I still know who I am and from where I’ve come.  And, just like the passport that I carry with me in and around this world, my rightly sized and centered photo reflected in its pages, I carry that truth engraved upon my heart by the finger of love in and around my life.

Peace and Blessings,

Nicole Walters

Oh, and apparently Mercury is in “retrograde” and might account for all of this travel snafu tomfoolery . . . whatever the heck that means!  (Shout out to my bestie for that one!)

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