“And the moral of the story is that you don’t remember what happened. What you remember becomes what happened.” -John Green
Do you ever look at a photo you’re in and try to remember what life was like for you in that moment? What it was to be you, looking into the camera, instead of you, looking back on the moment you were trying to capture?
Who were you when the flash went off?
Were you smiling because you were genuinely happy or because the camera was about to click? Is the person next to you someone you wanted there? Can you remember the way their arm felt around your shoulders and what they were saying in the moment before you turned to smile?
There is such an intense focus for us to preserve each moment, to document every detail of our lives- and to make sure they’re perfect in their documentation. My hair’s not right. You blinked. He didn’t smile. Someone threw up bunny ears- Take it again, with flash.
We get so concerned about taking that perfect photo that we end up documenting a manufactured moment instead of the one that was truly lived. And then we peruse a slew of filters to color the moment even more, to make it look less and less like the thing it was.
Over time, we see that photo again and again- catch a glance of it on our bulletin board or stumble upon it on Facebook. And what we begin to remember is not what it felt like to be alive that night, laughing with friends over drinks or hugging our parents at graduation. We remember what the photo shows us: the perfectly manufactured moment of somebody we used to be.
We try so desperately to find ways to remember, that we forget to actually live the life the photo captures. Instead of worrying if we’ll look perfect when the camera goes off, we should be worrying if we’ve fully taken in the smell of mom’s perfume standing next to us or the punchline of the joke a friend made about the photographer.
The moments that weren’t captured, that can’t be captured- those are the moments worth remembering.
A perfect photo will remind you where you were standing and what you were wearing in one single instant of your life. If you don’t look around and take in that moment for yourself, if you don’t appreciate it while it’s happening, the photo won’t be much help in reminding you who you were when it was taken.
The best stories, the best memories and the best lives don’t come from people who live for the perfectly manufactured moments. They come from the people who are too busy enjoying what’s around them to worry about documenting it.