As I write this, I am sitting in the quaintest little coffee shop in the West Village. On the corner of Jane and Greenwich, this exposed brick enclave with rustic furniture is lined with plants and vines ― it is home to all the growers who write here, think here, detangle themselves here. The smell of just-made cappuccinos and warmed up croissants lingers in the air and the fall sunlight streams in through the window. From inside, you have no sense of the weather, you just know the light. And you know it’s keeping you alive
As I write this, I am cozy in my favorite Lululemon leggings and grey zip up. It is a Sunday in mid-October and the day has slowed my pulse, my chase, my grasping. I am more than slightly okay with being in my skin. I don’t mind the thoughts filling my head or the neurons firing. I am willing to turn inward and have a cup of tea with my demons. Truth is, that’s ultimately all they want from me.
In essence, this is the perfect moment. The moment you snapshot or share or tweet. The moment you text Mom about. The moment you wish you could just pause, freeze, and defrost at a later date when light has been replaced by snow storms and a face full of pimples and a five-pound weight gain and a boy who won’t return your text. This moment is what I would deem “Instagramable.”
And yet, it doesn’t last long enough to take a picture. Just as the flash goes off and the moment is captured ― it is gone. It is not real. What is left is merely the desire to frame life and hang it above the mantel ― “You see, I am doing life right.” It is the desire for a head nod, a pat on the back, an accolade however small that you are not messing up your life, you are normal, you exist.
As I write this, I am, even momentarily, relieved of my desire for an Instagramable life. I am profoundly aware that life is so much, so messy, so unable to be compartmentalized ― despite my attempt to color code so that I can digest. It is the surfer who falls of their board into the crashing wave, the gate to the yoga studio that is stuck and doesn’t open, the out-of-breath steps up the stairs, the torn cuticle, the canceled plans, the overheating that happens when you tell the truth, the changes in weather and season that don’t quite make sense, the apartment that isn’t cleaned, the shoes that can’t be afforded.
The moments, feelings, thoughts, impulses ― always shifting. Even when the picture looks perfect, the life behind it is throbbing with unanswered questions, unresolved grief, joy waiting to be felt. An instagramable life is one that is not alive. And we are alive. We are so alive.
We are facing ourselves ― cracking open the fears that live in jars sealed closed with shame made of honey. We are making choices ― letting go of what makes sense or what looks good for what makes us feel the most like ourselves. We are wondering if this is what we always dreamed of. We are grateful for the hallways we’ve missed and the You’s that have left and the skin we’ve outgrown. We are sad for the childhood that is timestamped in albums out of reach. We are hopeful about the parents we’ll be, passing forward only what has served us.
A non-instagramable life is one that holds every bit of doubt, self-pity, adrenaline, hallowness and love we feel; with too much texture for a caged in space built of digital pixels. A non-instagramable life is knowing that you must look in the mirror and see a you that you would be friends with, no double-tap required. A non-instagramable life is wide enough and high enough and deep enough for all the mess of being human; there is no right or wrong, no balance beam we’re terrified of falling off of. A non-instagramable life is the moment you wonder what this would look like in a picture, and decide with a sigh of relief, that no one will know the buzzing on the inside of your skin.
You see, it is not about doing life right. It is about life. Every goddamn ounce of it.