‘You must be having the most amazing time out there’.
What is this expectation people clutch onto so tightly? This one that the minute a person lifts their heel off the concrete of their own territory and cruises to someplace with perhaps a sunnier disposition, seas with a warmer, more ethereal complexion and landscapes with different rocks or fields that grow different things or people who pray to different gods that instant happiness ensues?
It’s not all that you know.
Between the infinity pool that overlooks the luscious Balinese jungle and the Instagram photo that adds even greater vividity to the scene before it lies the human , experiencing one emotion, (or several as the case may be with me, a human whose thoughts are riddled with all too much complexity) and quite possibly depicting another.
Last year I stopped using social media as an experiment. I was happier without it because the highlights of my life were being displayed on a platform that bred comparison with the normality of actual life. Swallowing this knowledge, I really wanted to photographically document my travels. Yet I’m getting that itchy feeling again. The one you get when you know you’re not quite being true to your intuitive self.
Ever wondered what would happen if we peeled away the filters, captions and emojis and exposed ourselves with honesty?
The orange rucksack I left my home with seven weeks ago once made me feel pretty cool and nomadic, like I was actively inhaling every travelling, shitty, ‘find yourself’ cliché spewed out and plastered all over social media in the form of meaningless quotes and spitting it right back out on a photo. On the one hand, I feel a sense of supreme achievement every time I discover a new zip that opens into the main compartment (or even better, a new compartment altogether) but on the other hand, living out it ceaselessly can become frustrating. It soon loses its charm and your eyes recognise it for what it is. A mess of sweaty clothes, carrier bags, more clothes, dirty trainers and breakable bottles of hot sauce wrapped in scarves.
This quite truthfully is the most beautiful place I have ever been to and neither pictures nor words can do it justice. It would be futile and careless for me to try and word-paint the way the sun dropped like molten gold spilling itself all over water, clouds and lava. The sea lapped against the shore of my ear drums and engulfed all my blessed goddamn senses. I felt like my visual cortex was dipped in fairy dust and I wanted to keep this place in my whole being for eternity. I feel giddy describing it.
Behold; one of the most paradoxical situations I have ever been in. 6am and the morning of my results day. I sat on a deck and watched the sun’s face wake everyone else with her glow, casting sharp silhouettes with her fierce rays. On any other day, my senses would’ve devoured this morning. And although I gathered myself to obtain a small souvenir of the new day, I was in a flood of silent tears. Those exams I spent all year working obscenely hard for sat in front of me in the form of numbers so low that I felt entirely crushed. Sickened. Worthless. Useless. Like all my efforts were wasted on an institution out there who will know and judge my abilities based on those very numbers. I am still in the process of not letting modern day education systems define my self worth. That’s a piece for another day. As for this; this… was just a paradox- a paradox of a heart pumping bitterness rather than gratitude through its vessels.
Back in creative writing classes, we were scolded for using ‘nice’ as a descriptive term. But in all honesty, Sydney was a nice city. Just nice. It did not tug at my viscera with the poise Of Paris, the buzz of London or the vibrancy of Melbourne, though this photo may say differently. Yet it happens to be the first place I’ve ever been where I stayed by myself in a box sized hostel room with an allbeit friendly stranger in a bunk bed next to me. It is the first place I felt completely out of place and alone amidst a crowd that I didn’t fit in with, and then liberated in knowing I didn’t need to make friends for the sake of it. It is the first place I discovered a honeymoon-esque infatuation with wandering through the streets, getting lost in conversations with people I would have never talked to, had I had alternative company. This photo could not capture that. It is the first place where I experienced a thunderstorm of emotion on hearing some bad news from home, that had my running to the Lindt Café seeking chocolate flavoured consolation, feeling very alone and very much on the other side of the world to my loved ones. Would anyone be able to deduce this from my photographs? Hence, Sydney, the city, the one in this picture… was nice. But Sydney, the one that savoured my contentment and caught my tears was special.
That all got a bit heavy, so let’s talk about how disgustingly superficial I am. I actively lied here. I used a filter and then hashtagged ‘no filter’. Turns out ‘Lark’ makes blues go super blue and I was in the Blue Mountains and the plague of Instagram consumed my soul in one big gulp as I over excitedly captioned this with a tricolon I clearly believed was winning at the time. On a less concerning note, this was one of the highlights of my holiday and being alone in the midst of this spectacle only cranked up its charisma.
And this is me right now. Between the infinity pool overlooking the luscious Balinese jungle and the device on which this was snapped sits that human, who experiences one emotion (or several as the case may be with her and all her complexity) and has spent the last seven weeks depicting another.
She made a reasonable attempt at peeling away her filters, captions and emojis, only to expose her actual self.
That feels better now.