When I went to London last week, I was ready, iPhone in hand, to record everything: emotional revisits of old happy places, the bumpy bus rides, all the wonderful breakfasts and dinners, and my proud teary face at seeing my friends perform their summer show. This trip was going to be great, and I was going to share that greatness.
Now, a week later, I find myself with maybe 10 photos on my phone. Just like it happened earlier this year when I was trying to make Youtube videos, the urge to record just wasn’t there.
There is some underlying dislike I have for viewing my world through a screen. I remember going to see Postmodern Jukebox with friends a few years back, and the amount of time these people spent on their phones, filming or even texting, while we were all there together, annoyed me so much I still remember it as a big part of that night. I’ve also never understood people who take several pictures of the same thing; I usually take one (three at most, if I can tell the others aren’t good) and put my phone away as quickly as I can. But this past week, I didn’t even do that.
Because last week’s trip was not about aesthetics. Last week’s trip was about reminders.
When I arrived in London a week ago, it took no longer than an hour for the old uncomfortable grimy feeling to settle on my shoulders. I’ve never really liked the place, and that discomfort came back so quickly, it was almost a little scary. Almost immediately, there was my reminder that I have done the right thing by moving away. That, even though it is a bit tough right now, because a life doesn’t build itself within a couple of months, I’m on the right track for whatever comes next.
And that I can do this, even if it often doesn’t feel like it. Last week, more than anything, was about seeing friends. Their readiness to meet up and spend time with me, their happiness at seeing me, and the hours we spent together were the reminder I needed that I can do things, that I’m capable, that I’m okay, that I can be of value to someone. That is a feeling you just can’t take pictures of, and I’ve been holding onto it for the past few days. It’s a lot more important than a particularly pretty cup of coffee.
I did have a good time; this isn’t a ‘pics or it didn’t happen’ situation. But as someone who’s also on Instagram a lot, I wonder if we’re maybe sometimes a bit too preoccupied with taking and sharing pictures of everything. When your happiest moments are at 1.30 in the morning, in the dark by some stone benches somewhere near the river, huddled in a group of happily drunk people, freezing from the drink someone spilled all over your jeans and singing a Rachmaninoff piece, the whole ‘I enjoyed this coffee with my book’ aesthetic starts to feel a bit flat. Sometimes – actually, in my opinion a lot more often – you just need to experience the moment.