behind the instagram, memoir, travel

Behind the Instagram #1

A little experiment. I generally use social media for sharing the happy stuff. Some things that are too difficult or too personal or too meaningful to share with the world in a two-dimensional picture. Let’s see if I can find the courage to share some of what’s happening in the other dimensions.

This photo was taken on the beach in Swansea, Wales on June 6, 2018.

Unwanted is the dark theme of my life. I am the youngest of 12, and my mom had me after making it through about seven years pregnancy-free. It occurred to me one day in my 30s that my conception must have come as a shock to Mom, and I said as much to her. “I was devastated,” she said, as if I were a girlfriend she were confiding in. Not to say I wasn’t loved, don’t misunderstand me here. But I have to say her confession gave me a sense of relief. It validated all the times in my childhood when I felt like too much or in the way. That’s to say, I wasn’t imagining it when I felt Unwanted.

On the day of this photo, I’ve been waiting for seven days for Chris to respond to my last text. I thought we were dating, and I thought he was still in it, but at this point I’m not sure if in fact we’ve been dating or not. I don’t know whether to move on in my heart, whether to give him more time, or whether to just lighten up and text him again. And my rational mind tells me this swirl of uncertainty is a clear sign that this thing with him isn’t working for me. And my other rational mind tells me to hold steady, don’t jump to the darkest conclusion that I’m Unwanted.

The person taking the photo is one of a couple I saw walking across the sand. I decided this summer to get more photos with me in them. Travelling alone I tend to take pictures of my surroundings, but few have me in them. I’m happy not to smudge the air with my face, so to speak. But as I look back over my past few years of travelling, I do wish I had more images of myself in the places I’ve visited. Something else: when I’m alone and far from home I sometimes have an impulse to connect with other people, and asking a stranger to take my photo is a simple way of engaging with the people around me and not just skimming the surface of the place.

This Instagram post shows me on a beach and speaking and gesturing in some kind of saucy way to the person taking the photo. I’m not sure what I’m saying here, probably making my typical joke about needing many photos to get one good one. When the man returns my smartphone to me, I look at the pictures and cringe at how brazen I was to the nice couple. I feel the tiniest bit like too much. Of the half dozen he’s taken, I will choose this one to post because I’m a little bit embarrassed by it. Making the photo public feels like a tiny confession.

The couple moves on and I sit back down on my damp towel. This beach, its grand expanse of sand and sea makes you want to say a word like magnificent and really mean it. But it’s peaceful too. You think you can see forever. Voices are tiny. Bodies are tiny. Children with white shovels filling bright pails, dogs walking their humans. Someone’s pitched a tent and is now sitting in a lawn chair alongside. A sense of openness. We are all visible to one another but the distance between us feels like autonomy. The perfect blend of community and privacy. I don’t feel loneliness, I feel an easy kind of solitude. A space of my own.

I’m still learning that my life is larger than the question of whether or not I’m wanted.


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