The End of an Era

This summer is set to be one of the important few months of my life, as the date for my long-awaited facial reconstruction surgery has been set. On 3rd July 2017 my life will change forever, and I am not certain of how I will change, or who I will be once I wake up.

From the very start of my physical development as a child, my skull formed incorrectly resulting in an under-developed top jaw and a disproportionate facial structure. My substantial underbite wasn’t a huge struggle growing up for the most past as I was blessed with peers who accepted me without question; after all, they had never known me to look any other way. However, as much as I like to appear as someone who doesn’t care what they look like, and is happy for friends post ‘unattractive’ photos of me online, there has always been a part of me that is constantly worrying about how to hold my face in a way that will hide my underbite as much as possible. I often find myself ‘untagging’ photos of myself on Facebook, but only those which show my face from a side-profile. Sights of myself looking heavier, or silly, or having an unfortunate makeup disaster do not faze me as I know that all those things are temporary and don’t define me; whereas seeing face as others see me everyday upsets me from time-to-time. Particularly as when I see myself in a mirror or take a photo of myself I am facing mostly face-on, I am always taken aback when I see an angle of myself which I usually choose to avoid at all costs.

When people who do not know me well ask about my jaw or the upcoming surgery I often find myself focussing on the medical benefits of the procedure as opposed to the aesthetic factor, as if I feel guilty or ashamed for admitting that the way the main reason for the change is a cosmetic one. Even friends and family who tell me “you don’t need to change, you’re fine as you are” – of course with the greatest of intentions – sometimes misunderstand my justification for making an important change and that it is purely for me. In some ways I also feel that rather than making an ‘improvement’, this surgery will in fact correct a problem with my development and make me look how I was ‘meant’ to look since birth. I wholly intend to be utterly selfish throughout this process – after all, it is my face – and am looking forward to having a solid 2 months to reflect and review myself whilst I recover.

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The Western culture of cosmetic surgery has been evolving recently as people’s attitudes towards altering parts of one’s own body for one’s self is becoming more respected and understood, as opposed to views a few years ago that a cosmetic adjustment should be kept a secret or receive automatic criticism. Throughout this process I’ve found it interesting how differently people approach surgery, especially of a cosmetic nature, and I’m fascinated to see if I will be treated any differently by strangers or friends once I come out the other side. I find myself saying “goodbye” instead of “see you soon” to my university friends who I won’t see after until after the summer break as I cannot predict how much of the ‘old me’ will return to Bournemouth, both physically and mentally.

Eager to turn my fear, pain and discomfort over the recovery process into positive energy, I have decided to document every day through drawing. I intend to begin a fresh sketchbook on a few days before the surgery, then every day until I feel a complete physical recovery – since I believe the mental recovery process will be a much longer and gradual process throughout this year. I would also like to have a photograph of myself everyday which I can then use to digitally animate over to show my face adjusting and shifting around my new facial structure; however, I am quite a squeamish person so will have to request a family member to photograph me on my behalf for at least the first few days after recovery.

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