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Thoughts on reconciling the aspirational with the real


Photo by Cody Black on Unsplash

You know when you’ve been stalking someone periodically on social media because they are gorgeous and have a super cool life and will post aesthetically pleasing images and it’s sort of like a drug, consuming aspirational content like that? And then one day, randomly, you run into them at the coffee shop or on the subway and you have to do a double take because there’s something off. The images you’ve been consuming, the person you have built up in your head, does not match the person in front of you who you’ve caught at a moment in time that represents the vast majority of their other moments in time. But not the moments you’ve been consuming.


You’ve encountered them outside the moments constructed for the screen, in the middle of living life. Perhaps they’ve had a long day or a bad day or maybe just a day — whatever it is, the person in front of you does not appear to be the person you’ve been watching in pictures. And it feels like you’ve caught a glimpse of the “real” person, the curtain was pulled back, and the next time you go to their social media feed, the magic isn’t quite the same. The illusion is broken, and there’s a disconnect.


Okay, so the closest thing I have to an aspirational image of myself is a picture of me and my boyfriend on the beach. It was taken in 2018 on the very first day of my very first beach vacation with him and a few other friends. It is an image of me in a moment in time that I will likely find myself in only a handful more times. I recently made it my phone background.


It occurred to me that if someone were to catch a glimpse of this photo on my phone, a complete stranger meeting the real and the mediated at the exact same time, I wouldn’t want them to feel a disconnect. Which to me means that I want to be so present in my life that no matter what moment someone catches me in, no matter the emotional state or the kind of day I’ve been having, I want them to see the same person.


I guess what I’m saying is that I want to be the magic.


I don’t want the magic of my life in images to come from the filtration of the screen, or the setting of the photo, or what I’m wearing or who I’m with or the particular moment of my life in which the photo was taken.


I just want it to be me. I am the magic. So it doesn’t matter how “screen-worthy” some moments of my life are, because the only content that matters is me.


To be so present in my life that every moment feels authentic to myself. To be so present that not only do I feel it, but a complete stranger reconciling me in the 1% moments of my life vs. the 99% moments feels it, too.


A cohesive self held together by simply being present to your life. Maybe that’s a truly lofty aspiration. But it feels sustainable and healthy and peaceful to me; it feels like something worth aspiring to.



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