Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Passports and Identity

Yesterday I sent off an application for a new passport, as I've done a couple of times before. Some things never change, like place of birth, date of birth, name.

Other things, however, change radically, most notably the photo that identifies me (or do I identify the photo?).

I noticed this (was shocked by this) when I dug out my last passport to send in with the application.

Fifteen years later my hair has gone grey. I'm heavier. There's a psychological weight captured by the photo as well. Things happen. They take a toll.

I guess I'm glad they do. I can't even think my way back to being the happy, naive young man depicted on an even earlier passport from 1975. And he certainly couldn't have imagined being the much-traveled, liver-spotted man I have become.

A passport is designed to facilitate bordercrossings. Mine are littered with visas to the former German Democratic Republic and the former Yugoslavia, countries that no longer exist, with borders that have changed. They are stamped by officials in Peru, France, Germany, Belgium, Holland, Austria, the United Kingdom.

With my new passport, I can return to some of these places (although I'll need Euros now, instead of Francs and Marks), but as the photo witnesses, it won't be the same person returning. And that's okay by me. I've worked hard for the experience that comes from books and languages and teachers and students and friends and children and grandchildren, for the values and tastes and quirks and knowledge of my own frailties that make me who I am today. I'm grateful for the range, for the reach, for the depths and the heights.

And when the new passport arrives, I've still got some new borders to cross.


Nina Pops said...

Neuerdings darf man auf Passfotos nicht lachen, keine Gefühle zeigen. Auf dem ersten Foto sieht man deutlicht - Lachen war erlaubt. Was kommt als nächstes? Nur eine Nummer an Stelle der Menschengesichter?

Scott Abbott said...

Eine Nummer an stelle der Menschengesichter! Ich wollte ich koennte malen.