It took me many years to arrive at such a life

Defne Ozdenoren

Instagram: @defneyuan

Content warning:  this work includes mention of anorexia and eating disorders.

“In having each other we had ourselves, in telling each other things we were telling them to ourselves… it’s like that thing with the art that you showed me… you see fragments of yourself in other people. It’s like you’re in me and I’m in you.”

“the things that made us different are the same… the same things happened to us that made us different… we’re different halves of the same thing”

“but I think that’s something that doesn’t go away, grief is not the mourning of a person, it’s grief… it’s the core that doesn’t go away… the fact that this has happened, it’s not like a transient experience,  it’s not the fact we’re holding on to it… it’s just there forever… so we won’t let it go because it’s there.”

“You’re honestly more beautiful every day, I see you in school and I don’t notice that you’ve changed, I just notice she’s prettier today.”

‘I can’t blame anyone for not doing any thing because it’s… what should other people say? Nobody has power to change it apart from you.’

‘It’s the world’s call for more of you.’

Defne’s series began with a conversation she with her friend Emilie in July, when they began to talk about their experiences recovering from anorexia, a restrictive eating disorder.

‘During lockdown, I lost any motivation I had to create art, one of the things I treasure most in life. Only now, in October 2020, have I felt it is the right time for me to make this work, in part as a way of healing.’

‘This series is dedicated to Emilie, the subject of these photographs. Here I am choosing to celebrate us, rather than dwelling on the time we have “lost” to this illness. These photos document an evening spent together, a few months ago we would have never been able to do this: eat the food we love, walk around and sit in the park after sunset, and sing past midnight. During the evening I recorded parts of our conversations, presented alongside the photos.’

The title of this work comes from the following passage:

“Here is how I spend my days now. I live in a beautiful place. I sleep in a beautiful bed. I eat beautiful food. I go for walks through beautiful places. I care for people deeply. At night my bed is full of love, because I alone am in it. I cry easily, from pain and pleasure, and I don’t apologize for that. In the mornings I step outside and I’m thankful for another day. It took me many years to arrive at such a life.” - Ottessa Moshfegh, ‘Eileen’

‘Even before my recovery I remember reading this passage over and over again and thinking about how carefully and sensitively it captured the everyday. I would share it with friends and keep it in my notes app, close to me at all times. Now I understand what Moshfegh means by “It took me many years to arrive at such a life”. ‘