Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Coming Back

You're prepared for culture shock. You're warned and nervous and so out of your element that when it happens it's unnerving, but you expected it. Of course you did. You're in another country, speaking another language, surrounded by customs and mores unfamiliar to you.

What you're not warned about is coming back.

Which is really the harder part, because you don't expect it to be hard. And it's not hard per se, it's that while you were off galavanting around the globe, life at home held steady. While you learned how to exist in a foreign city, in another nation, and while you had great revelation into yourself, and while you gained confidence and courage that only comes with being completely out of your element, everything else stayed relatively the same.

Sure time passed. People started new jobs, couples got together or broke up, babies got bigger, but generally speaking things stayed the same.

Coming back from extended time abroad is such a mixture of excitement and relief at first. You know how things work! You don't have to look up directions every time you leave your house! You get to see all these people who know you, and who you love, and who you've been missing!

But quickly, everything's just as it was. And you're a little changed, but not different, so you can't help but notice that everything feels flat.

Flat. That's where I've been this week.

It's not that I'm not happy to be home. It's not even that I miss Paris. It's the return. It's a weird and difficult feeling to explain. I've been here before, and judging by the way I prioritize travel in my life I'll be here again.

Other people, much more worldly than me have written about this - one of my favorite descriptions being that if you're not careful, you'll develop a lifestyle version of the bends.

So I'm reconciling with being back and life being about as normal as it gets. I'm trying to indulge in the things and people I missed, while holding on to some of the habits I picked up. I'm already planning future trips while settling back into a routine in a place I am happy to call home.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

In Defense of Sharing the Good Stuff

Last fall I ran into a friend I hadn’t seen in a while at an event. “I’ve been following your exciting life on line!” she exclaimed as we hugged hello.

“Thanks!” I responded, then laughed, “I only put the good stuff up there.”

Which, like most of us is true. My instagram, twitter, and facebook feeds are filled with photos and musings of good times, fun adventures, food that was divine, and flattering pictures of myself and my friends.

There are a lot of articles complaining about the lack of realness in the way we curate the information we share publicly. How our lives all look shinier and more put together then they actually are, and how we shouldn’t feel bad when we see our friends doing amazing things, because they’re only posting the good stuff. How going on Facebook makes us depressed, because as humans we can't help but compare, and if you're comparing your life to a hand picked feed of only good times, how can you not feel depressed that your life doesn't measure up?

And I want to say that I support us sharing the good. If you want to share the personal, bad, and/or everything else in between, that’s your decision and good on you for doing what you want. But, I’m sick of us vilifying the sharing of good stuff.

Personally, I think it’s a very pessimistic view to say the photo streams we have aren’t real because  they’re capturing happy, exciting, or accomplished events. They are obviously real life. We took them during our real lives. And yes, bad stuff, confusing stuff, sad, awful stuff has happened to all of us and was just as much real life, but I don’t think the good should be discounted based on the fact that it’s what we may want to remember or share in public setting.

Similarly, the feeds of my friends: creating, celebrating, having fun, falling in love, exploring new places and kicking ass at their jobs don’t fill me with despair. They’re god damn inspiring! I’m friends with these amazing people, building lives they want and working hard to make that happen. They are talented, beautiful people and I love having insight into the parts of their lives they are proud enough to share.

I’ve been posting more to instagram while in Paris than usual, because, well, everything is foreign and more catches my attention and curiosity. Being more aware of my surroundings in Pittsburgh is something I hope to take home with me in a couple of weeks. Anyway, one of my friends posted a comment under a picture I took from a morning run through the Jardin de Tuilleries which said, So thrilled to see you enjoy the magic of Paris and to share it with us. Hooray for living dreams!

Which, is a remark very true to her personality, but also struck me as such a pleasant and wonderful way of looking at the noise that is social media. How it’s thrilling to see someone you care about enjoy him or her self and share that enjoyment.

So, I defend the re-touched wedding pictures, the creatively posed engagement and pregnancy announcement photos, the look at me having this awesome adventure profile pic, and the photos where your kids look angelic and are getting along. I’ll even stand up for cat pictures, food porn, and selfies with your significant other.  Life is too short to not find the beauty in it, to share that, and to revel in how we all interpret and experience that beauty differently.