Living vs. Recording: On the Experience of Life

Last weekend my fiancĂ© had a stellar getaway weekend on Vashon Island. Our trip marked the first time away from responsibilities in months. The picture above is the only one we have from the experience. Despite repeated promises to the contrary, this one picture is one more than we usually get on dates or trips. In fact, we often struggle to find pictures of us that don’t also include our cat making funny faces on the couch at home. For a while this bugged me. But then I realized it’s a good thing. The fact that we’re so busy living our life together that we don’t have the time to record it.

Recently I’ve been listening to The Write Now Podcast by a wonderful woman named Sarah Werner. It’s about writing. Obviously. Beyond the writing process, Sarah’s podcast focuses on finding the unicorn known as the “Work/Life/Writing Balance.” So when we got back home Sunday and realized my ferry snapshot was the only picture we had of the weekend I got to thinking why we never manage to take pictures while we’re out.

As I thought about that, I flipped the photo album on my phone I realized that despite the constant reminders that my iCloud storage is nearly full (would you like to upgrade? hell no.) I don’t have many quality pictures of any trips or experiences I’ve had recently. Again, after thinking about it, I’m not super upset about it.

Looking back on the weekend, I can’t really think of any moment where I would have rather stopped what we were doing to snap a quick photo. I’m glad that we were too involved actually eating our pad thai to take a photo of it. The last thing I would have wanted to do sitting on the couch in front of the wood stove was figure out how to make the lighting in the dark room good enough to Snapchat the fact we were watching How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days and having a great weekend.

Let me interject by saying Matthew McConaughey has come a long way since that particular movie.

Anyways back to the point. I’ve been making a point to focus on taking in the moment and committing it to memory rather than recording a snapshot of it on my phone. It’s one of those things you read all the time. Don’t live life through the screen of your smartphone. What I’m saying is not revolutionary. But that doesn’t make it not true.

I’m not saying never take a picture of something you enjoy experiencing. I actually encourage you to take pictures with your loved ones. Find a cool rock on a hike? Take a photo of it. I did that yesterday (because these rocks were actually yuuuuuuuge boulders). But next time your waiter brings out some bomb looking BBQ and no one’s waiting anxiously for a picture of your lunch, keep the phone in your pocket. Take a look at all the cooky stuff on the wall. (If you’re at a quality BBQ joint, I promise there will be cooky stuff on the wall.) Dive into those ribs without fear that you’ll smear sauce on your screen. Let it melt in your mouth and chase it with some cornbread, coleslaw, and baked beans.

  1. If the BBQ doesn’t melt in your mouth, ask for your money back.
  2. I won’t promise that it will make the BBQ taste better, but I would wager that more often than not it will.

And now that I’m realizing I went on a bit of a BBQ rant there (not sorry), I feel obligated to remind everyone that heightened experience of taking a moment to enjoy something without a photo interruption applies beyond BBQ.

Look at the end of the day its the 21st century. You’re not going to reach the end of your life without photos. Photos are also a wonderful thing and I definitely take my fair share of them. But next time you’re out and about trying keeping your phone or camera tucked away. Take in the full experience and commit it to memory. I would imagine it will mean more in the long run.


Now that I bring this pseudo-luddite diatribe to a close, I have a confession to make. I took more than the photo above on our trip. I managed to sneak this gem, which I absolutely love.

Those of you who know us personally, don’t tell Reina I took this photo. She’s not a huge fan of candid shots but this is every bit the woman I fell in love with.

She had humored me to check out Vashon’s tiny bookstore. I’d left my phone in the car and came back to find her sitting in the rocking chair completely engaged with the book in her lap. I had not been remotely sneaky in snapping this shot. After standing there for a moment I knew she wasn’t going to look up until I said something and I just couldn’t bring myself to break the magic. I stumbled across something that was equal parts beauty, intelligence, and an ability to get lost in something beyond herself; the pillars upon which my captivation is built.

I’m not saying there are never appropriate times to take photos. Occasionally you are presented with the opportunity to capture a symphony of emotions in a single image and those should never be wasted. But those moments are fleeting and more often than not you will do yourself better by breathing in the moment with every sense at your disposal rather than viewing it through a camera.

Until next time, try to take less photos.



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