Kingfishers are filthy birds. Their nests are dank tunnels in the riverbank, littered with the bones of the various fish that they have devoured and the waste of them and their children. Their nests smell of rotten fish. Yet, despite this, they are one of the most beautiful birds in Britain, the flash of azure blue flitting over the river one of the most iconic images of riverside wildlife. This is why I propose that, like the kingfisher, the messiness of my room and my clothes do not stop me from being a truly vibrant and outstanding member of society.

I did mention my clothes but they are mostly alright. Like most teenagers, I enjoy not looking terrible. It may be being part of the ‘selfie’ generation but I find bad photos embarrassing on the whole and would honestly prefer if, you know, they didn’t exist. Snapchat killed me on the whole self esteem issue so thoroughly that I was forced to delete it. There are only so many ‘puppy face’ photos a girl can have screenshotted before she starts to develop a complex about always looking cute. There’s also the whole commitment to streaks and stuff that I am honestly not ready for, but that’s another week’s topic.

The school pictures this year were supposed to be a big deal. There were rumours that they would go on our UCAS forms, so that every potential university we applied to would see them. These rumours were totally unfounded – but that only made them all the more prolific. Cat-eyes were being flicked with shaking hands, the common room was covered in a mist of dry shampoo. People even scrutinised each others’ outfits as if they were walking the catwalk rather than down our dreary 1960’s grey corridors that mysteriously have the same grey carpet creeping up the walls.

Needless to say, somehow I missed the memo. It had been a rough morning, I had rolled right out of bed and tugged on the closest clothes off of the top of the piles that littered the floor of my room: grey tracksuit bottoms, a grey vest, and a saggy black t-shirt that was covered in ginger cat hairs. For practicality, this was a defendable position. I lead an active life, my clothes should be comfortable. It was too late to really do more than think about brushing my hobbit-hair, so I smoothed it a few times, grabbed my bag and left for school.

Everyone was dressed rather nicely at school that day. I thought it was peculiar how neat everyone looked, but I had more pressing concerns in the form of several essays and worksheets to hand in. The sixth form common room didn’t really cross my mind at all as I scribbled my name on a worksheet. Neither did I think about it when I was dashing off a conclusion to my essay. At 8.45am I happily showed up to Form Time, where our tutor was distributing time slots.

The time slots for our school pictures.

I am not fundamentally an optimist. However, somehow I managed to convince myself that it would be okay. Casually disheveled is a real look. I may have looked slightly out of place in the corridor outside of where the photos were being taken but merely hoped that I would look rebellious and stylishly unkempt. The ‘Sirius Black’ aesthetic.

Click. Flash. Snap.

The aesthetic was less… cute than I’d hoped. On getting the images back, I felt my stomach sink. There would be no way that my parents would buy my sixth form photo, not that I wanted them to. The only silver lining was that it turned out that the UCAS rumour was untrue. However, the photo’s influence did not stop here. It is now the school’s intranet system, and that means that I see it every time I sign in, and that all of my teachers see it on a day to day basis when they do the online register.

And at first I was mortified. I knew that I did not look like that, my teachers knew that I did not look like that, but I was still convinced that the photo somehow affected the way I looked in real life. To some extent it did, if truth be told. As beauty or lack of is a very subjective thing, my perception of myself had changed with this new photo. I felt uncertain of what I actually looked like, and this lack of self-belief made me feel like I looked worse than I did. Defining yourself by how you look is shallow, but as a teenager it is easy to feel self-conscious about the same terrible image being plastered next to your name at every turn.

However, as the song says ‘I will survive’. Like the beautiful kingfisher, my plumage is unaffected by the terrible conditions that I put myself through. If a bad photo is the worst thing in my life, then I should be willing to admit that mine is not the worst life to have, not by a long shot. I am certain that in a few years time all I will remember about this bad photo is my embarrassment (and this permanent, public reminder that I am sharing with all and sundry).

This may seem like a long-winded excuse for a bad photo, but you can also apply it to your day-to-day life. Spill something on your clothes? The kingfisher lives in its own filth but it’s still beautiful. Mother says that your room is messy? The kingfisher lives in a filthy burrow. Is your desk the most untidy thing that has ever been exposed to man? Just think of the glorious kingfisher. Life is too short to be tidy, there are exciting things happening and it is better to be involved than in your room methodically tidying.

That said, at least my room is not filled with rotten fish.