It was with interest that I listened to a young woman explain her Instagram feed to me. She explained how she always uses the same filters, the same focus on her lens, the same point of view to create a consistent feel for her photos.
She called it her curated life.
I found this both intriguing and troubling, because one of the things I have come to recognize over the last five decades is that life is both uncuratable and truly at its best when it is messy.
My Instagram feed looks like nothing like a curated collection. It is a collection of real moments from my life, from suede shoes with bits of cat fur clinging to them to odd angles, bad lighting and brief glimpses of all the imperfections. And if I am honest these are the type of Instagram feeds I am drawn to, because instead of trying to create some image of perfection they instead reflect the reality of other’s lives.
Have you ever seen an Instagram feed or a Facebook profile that seems to display a perfect life? These always make me suspicious because the truth is life is not perfect.
If I had had the option to curate my life I would’ve curated out so many things; the painful death of my father from lung cancer; my mother’s sudden-death from an aneurysm; the loss of vision in my left eye due to disease; the demise of a 24 year marriage and so much more. But in the same way I would’ve wished to curate these things out of my life, they are what has made my life what it is.
I wonder about those who strive for a curated life; I suspect that one day life will surprise them as it surprises all of us, with unexpected happenings both good and bad. It is unlikely these things will fit into their curation, and yet these are the things that give life true beauty.
I am not saying that terrible things are beautiful; please don’t misunderstand. But I think if life were nothing but perfect, we would not appreciate it because we would not understand there are two sides to living.
They say that we only appreciate light because we can see the dark and warmth because we experience being cold. I think this is true of life as well. Perhaps those who curate their lives have not yet experienced the loss of a loved one, the end of a relationship, significant illness or any of the other life traumas that eventually we will all face. Or perhaps they have endured these things and have instead chosen to focus on a beautiful, “perfect” life.
And I do not judge them for this; I simply do not believe that life can be curated and nor should it be. Life is messy, difficult, occasionally painful and yet incredibly beautiful.
The loss of my parents made me understand how much I treasured them; the end of my marriage led me to explore my own need for independence; the loss of vision in one eye made me appreciate being able to see. To curate these things out of my life would be to deny that they are part of it and part of the journey of my existence.
I not only accept but also celebrate my time on this planet, with moments of both joy and anguish, as I wander through this uncurated life.