Editor-in-Chief Farrah Storr on looking to the future, and why it’s equally important for us to embrace the past
“THE FUTURE IS POINTLESS WITHOUT THE CONTEXT OF THE PAST”
The other day I received a reminder from Instagram about what I was doing exactly three years ago to the day. According to the image it presented me with, I was basking under the rays of a foreign sun with a 1O-yard grin on my face. I look happy, relaxed, carefree. Was I? I couldn’t tell you, to be honest. Though the fact I had chosen to share this image with the world would suggest it was an important moment in my life – one at least worth saving for posterity. In years to come, each of us will have thousands of images like this – a roll call of curated photographs documenting our lives. We will scroll upon them, sometimes by accident, and there they will be, a slide show of memories, perfectly filtered and cropped. But images can muddle memory. They can fill in the gaps where emotional recall usually takes over. I have no images of my first love for example, and so he lives on only as a powerful jumble of emotions and faded memories. Neither do I have any photographic evidence of those smaller yet equally important moments in my life, like stepping off a plane for the first time (Albufeira, 1985) or holding my first dog. Instead, apropos of nothing, something will stop me in my tracks: the smell of Hugo Cologne caught on the wind, a fawn-coloured dog passing by in the street, a whiff of sun lotion on hot skin, and I will be carried back to those people and places all over again. We are forever being told to live in the moment. Or, if we can’t manage that, to look forward to the life we want. But what about the life we left behind? Style magazines like this one are almost always about looking into the future. The future is exciting, sure – it’s a large blank screen onto which we can project an image of our future selves. But the future is pointless without the context of the past. It is why here at ELLE we often ask writers to look back over their lives. Yes, their stories are personal, but the best writers are able to mine their pasts for lessons we can all take away. In this issue we have one of the world’s most brilliant memoirists, David Sedaris, writing about growing up with a famous younger sister (page 13O), as well as novelist Hannah Rothschild, who examines the burden of living with a powerful surname (page 71). There are new voices, too, such as Alexandra Jones, who looks back on the romantic partners who have shaped her life (page 124). It is a staggering read, filled with pathos and nostalgia. Each writer’s tale offers us a chance to re-explore our own memory bank. And memories, treated with the kid gloves of age and wisdom, offer us the greatest lessons of us all. This new issue of ELLE is for those who understand that looking back is as important as reaching forward.