Journal Entry 2 – Hotel Mirrors

05.11.21 – 10:51 pm.

I am currently laying in a hotel bed for the first time in roughly a year and a half. It is seriously surreal being back in a hotel after fifteen months of traveling quite scarcely, and avoiding any place that may have a high concentration of people. To my future self: remember the pandemic?

The entire last fifteen months have been surreal in all honesty. But my thoughts on life during the pandemic deserve their own journal entry (or several.) I’m here to discuss a thought that occurred to me while looking into a hotel mirror.

For whatever reason, I look my absolute best in the mirrors found in hotel rooms. The warm and vibrant lighting that accompanies these mirrors is always flawless. I have no doubt this is true for many others. However, when I try to take a photo in the mirror, the result always falls flat. Today, for instance, I tried taking a mirror selfie, and was unable to capture a picture that did justice to my reflection. No angle would get the job done, and I grew frustrated. But then I recalled a moment from earlier today.

I was sitting atop a hill, surrounded by dandelions. The grass was swaying beautifully in the wind, and the yellow flowers stood out like stars against a midnight sky. It was incredibly serene and picturesque, but my iPhone photos simply did not capture what I was witnessing. So I took a video. And naturally, the video was able to capture more aspects of the moment, but I knew I had not actually saved the beauty of this moment in any digital format.

In the most humble way possible, I am comparing myself (or, technically, my reflection) to this gorgeous field of dandelions and tall grass. Simply put, not everything can be properly captured in a photo or a video. People dedicate their lives to photography and filmmaking, and can create some truly immersive pieces. But there is no substitute for what we experience in person with our own five senses. 

I could watch a hundred movie scenes featuring the Northern Lights, with orchestral music, masterful editing, and pristine sound. I could look at a thousand photographs of the Northern Lights, taken by the world’s best adventure photographers. But nothing will be the same as actually standing beneath the Northern Lights, and taking in their beauty for myself. I use this example because I have always dreamt of witnessing aurora borealis in person, and I think it’s pretty hard to argue that anything could replace actually being there.

This is true on scales big and small. When we obsess over how we look in photographs, thinking to ourselves “My hair doesn’t look like that” or “I’m not that fat” or in my unusual instance “I look so much better in this hotel mirror”… those statements are all true! We look better in real life than we do in photographs. Everything does. Of course, there are exceptions to this rule. A dull or boring object could be made interesting by a clever photograph. But you understand the premise of my claim. Real life triumphs over art. Experiences, moments, and memories are almost always superior to photos, videos, or records. So don’t be frustrated by your photo that didn’t quite capture the beauty of something. It’s okay. You look wonderful. That field of dandelions is delightful. The Northern Lights are breathtaking. So feel free to “capture the moment” however you please, but just understand that some elements of the moment cannot be captured. They live exclusively in the present.

On a somewhat unrelated note, I just had an evening dip in the hotel pool. Now, I’m laying in bed, and the scent of chlorine has attached itself to me. My skin is a bit water-logged, and my body is worn out. This exact combination of senses is so familiar. I experience it after long summer days, or sometimes evenings, at the pool with my father. It’s a nostalgic feeling that takes me back to very particular moments in life, but also just a general feeling of being content at the end of an adventurous day. It’s hard to explain… but perhaps I should simply live in this moment, rather than try to capture it with my words.

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