I don’t like hospitals. I have a lot of reasons for disliking them, but I think above all, I don’t like them because of the reason that they exist, which is because people are sick, hurting, or dying. I love visiting my grandmother, but not in a hospital. I feel fortunate to know that her reason for being in there is not as serious as it could be, but nonetheless, I don’t like seeing her in there.
What I do appreciate about visiting her there is the quality time that we get to have together. When I see her in her home, we’re catching up on general life events that have occurred within our lives and the lives of our family members since the last time we spoke, and we’re including other people like my grandpa in on the conversation, which takes more conscious effort due to his health issues that ultimately take focus the majority of the time. So visiting her as she lays in the hospital bed is bittersweet because while I don’t like that she’s there, the lack of extra company and the idea that I am not there for her to entertain provides us with a unique opportunity to simply relax and catch up about anything that we please to catch up about.
Tonight, I brought my computer to show her pictures of some of the artwork I’ve been working on and have mentioned to her in other conversations. It was really nice to be able to show her visual examples and it opened the door for a lot of conversation that built upon her actually getting to see for herself the type of talent that I have to offer and why I am so passionate about it. She told me about her sister and the art endeavors that she pursued and the story was really quite beautiful… especially considering all of the tiny, seemingly minuscule, details that she remembers so well because those details are what make the stories significant to her. It’s just beautiful. I love listening to older people tell stories and express themselves because there’s a certain level of genuine interest and embrace of the topic and its meaning that seems to be lacking in today’s time… maybe it’s because of the constant virtual “sharing” that we’re becoming accustomed to that enables us to pick and choose how our stories are told. We can edit, rearrange, and even delete any details that we’d like to include or forget, and I think that unfortunately carries over into our everyday interactions. I think we become so used to carrying on this facade that we’ve created online and the image that we’re intending to portray that our interactions become more calculated, almost to the point of being second nature. It has become something of a natural part of our daily lives for us to consider how it is that we’d like our stories to be told and to know what it takes to display our story in that way as we go. It seems as though the sincerity has been virtually edited out of our lives and our stories.
But older people haven’t been tainted by the technological growth. They haven’t learned to take photographs and memories for granted because of the limitless access to cameras and immediate uploads of pictures, videos, and thoughts that are quickly lost in a sea of the same coming in from others, and eventually forgotten. No, they actually experiencedtheir lives… they played outside, they used their imaginations, they spent their time inventing, creating from scratch, actively interacting- face to face– with one another, and taking in each moment in with true genuine appreciation for it and all that it was… they had to put out more effort to not only create these memories, but to maintain them. Not us. The “wonders” of the world around us are so easily accessible to us at the click of a button, be it finding the answer to a question- any question, or talking to someone we’d like to speak with… even seeing someone we’d like to see. We don’t need to put out much of any effort for anything anymore and we not only take that access for granted, but we abuse that privilege so much that we don’t appreciate the things that we want and do gain access to… why would we? Everything is a dime a dozen these days. Nothing is unique anymore, nothing is special. When we are in the midst of experiencing something special, beautiful, or memorable, rather than truly experiencing it, taking the time to soak in the beauty and the emotions and feelings that it evokes in the depths of our soul, or putting out the effort to notice and appreciate everything about that moment or experience that makes it memorable, what are the majority of us doing? We’re taking a moment to snap a photo, and spending another few moments to follow editing it, considering what type of witty caption would portray it with the most appeal, uploading, and then checking continuously for approval, appreciation, and hopefully some level of envy via “likes” and “comments” from others who weren’t even there. It even gets so twisted at times that some people truly feel less worth toward a great experience that they were, for whatever reason, unable to document for sharing, than they do for an experience that would have been otherwise meaningless if it weren’t for the skillful poses, color adjustments, filter, frame, captions, and hashtags they were able to attach to it for an acceptable sparkle, which of course then gives it meaning.
It’s sad, but most of all, it’s disappointing.
I can’t lie, I fully enjoy the benefits of social media… it allows me to stay connected with people that live far away and who I’d miss much more if I weren’t able to enjoy seeing their updated pictures and status updates scroll through my minifeed, and I can’t deny that it has its benefits when it comes to business and networking connections. It has certainly become a vital aspect of staying connected to the world in nearly every way, but it has also been completely and utterly overdone, and I cannot help but feel a sense of significance in pulling away and instead putting a conscious effort to truly experience life, sans concern for documenting and sharing my experiences, and to remaining appreciative for each and every one, sans concern of whether or not I have received the approval of others that they are worth appreciating.
I was born on the cusp of the adventurous and technological generations and I was fortunate enough to experience the beauty of truly living before it all took a virtual turn toward disconnection… I grew up climbing trees, spending countless hours in my garage “inventing” things and using my imagination, and my goal after school every day was not to master Candy Crush (which I’m proud to say is a game that I never have and never will play) but was instead to master jumping 3 monkey bars on my jungle gym, to catch that one nimble lizard that for some reason didn’t want to live in my aquarium with the rest of his friends (imagine that?), or to follow my brother’s every move in hopes that one day maybe I could dribble the basketball between my legs too (andddd mastered). The point is that I was fortunate enough to see the difference… to experience living and “living”… and I choose to continue to live. I have my grandmother to thank for reminding me, and the strong heart that she gave me to know that visiting family trumps any discomfort in visiting a hospital.
There truly is something significant to be found in every experience in life, no matter how unlikely it may seem at first glance.
Maybe if we weren’t so busy considering how to portray our days virtually, we would soak them in more successfully and share them in the way they were meant to be shared naturally- like in telling a meaningful story to your granddaughter 50 years later and watching it inspire her in ways you could have never calculated with your iPhone.