Is it possible to not realize your own happiness? Or, when looking back, do you see it only because of nostalgia, wrapped up in the lie of “the good old days”?
My favorite kind of people all have the same virtue: they’re genuine. There’s just something about them that lacks pretense in any kind of way. They may appear blunt, even standoffish to others, but they’ve got their principles, they know who they are, and — for better or worse — that’s who they’ll stay.
I like that kind of person because I like to imagine I’m the same way. So when the birthday party, the night out, or big event comes along, I really don’t want to go. Ever. It’s not because I don’t want to be around people (although we’ve all been there), or that I’m just antisocial — it’s because I can’t stand taking posed pictures, and everyone and their momma has to have something to post to the ’gram or Facebook.
It just comes off as fakery. No one was smiling like that two seconds before the picture was taken, no one was feeling that good. Why are we doing this? To look like better friends, tighter family, for social media? Ugh. I’m not just bitter about the awful photo attached to this column, I promise.
Everyone has that aunt, grandma or cousin who takes 5,000 photos over the course of that two-hour party. Selfies are bad enough, but this person has, I guarantee, invested in at least an entry-level DSLR camera with three different lenses and is the person every member of your family or social group goes to for birthday and anniversary photo shoots. You can’t deny them, because they don’t really want anything, just a second to take a picture — now everybody smile! Then wait for the 300 dings on your phone as you’re tagged in every last one.
If that doesn’t describe any member of your family, shoot, I’m up for adoption.
When I first look at those pictures, I see no value. I don’t need to see myself 500 times. I was there, and even if it’s not perfect, I’ll always have the memories, and they have more intrinsic value than a photo ever could.
Then time passes, as it is wont to do. I wake up years later and immediately grab my phone because I’m a millennial and that’s what we do. I check the weather, think about setting an alarm for 30 minutes later, sigh and decide not to, and then tap on the social media notification that shows me the stuff I posted or was tagged in on that day years ago.
And for the first time that day, I smile. A real smile.
Hey, I remember that prom photo. Man, I can’t believe I thought I was fat then. Was that Easter? Awww, the baby was so little. No way, is that a photo of mom?
I’m reminded of how I felt taking those pictures. I’m usually slightly annoyed, and I can see the big fake smile I plaster on to placate the photographer and my friends and family.
Turns out, I’m sometimes shortsighted. The pictures were never for me, at least not then. They weren’t for the ‘gram. They weren’t for likes on Facebook or to look happy when we weren’t.
They were an investment. They were to look at with a morning cup of coffee before a hard day, to remind me of the things I have had, what I still have, where I’ve gone, and where I’m going.
Is it just nostalgia? Or do I look back on these things I didn’t want to do at the time with a smile because I truly was happy?
I can’t answer that question for you. It helps me see the long picture. Maybe I wasn’t happy at that exact moment, but the memories those pictures spur are reminders of happiness. Those moments, and others.
So my apologies to the photographers that had to put up with me. I was hard on you, and while I didn’t appreciate you at the time, I’ve come to realize you were really doing me a favor.
However, looking in your eyes before you snap those photos, well … I think you knew all along. That’s this week’s small victory.
JESSE JONES is the editor of The Eagle Post, a member of Paxton Media Group. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.