I’ve been looking at pictures all week. Pictures of New York City, pictures of Vermont and Vancouver, pictures of Boston’s Freedom Trail, pictures of a Caribbean cruise (not the one that lost power and had no working bathrooms!), pictures of the Arizona desert.
It’s public school vacation week here, and our friends are madly posting their vacation snapshots on Facebook. Not only do I know where they all went; I know what they did while they were there, how crowded it was or wasn’t, what the snow or surf conditions were like, and even what they wore throughout their vacation.
And I have to say I’m thoroughly enjoying it. So I was surprised to hear a segment on NPR’s Morning Edition earlier this week about how therapists are reporting increased business from unhappy patients who are overwhelmed with feelings of envy and insecurity because of what they see their friends doing on Facebook: the clothes, the vacations, the parties, the fun.
We didn’t go far this vacation week – we went to Portland last weekend, which was great, but other than that the big excursions have been to a nearby museum and a frozen yogurt parlor – but I don’t feel envious or insecure; I feel happily entertained by my friends’ photos. Here’s one of Holly’s friends posing next to a horse in Central Park, and here are our former neighbors at a Diamondbacks spring training game. Jody and her daughter got caught in a blizzard but ultimately reached their destination; Diane waited in the airport for a long time after her flight was cancelled, but now she’s with her new grandchild. I think it’s great fun to see where people are and what they’re doing, and I’m happy for them that they can take interesting trips.
I have a recurrent memory from childhood of sitting in long backups at the toll gates on the Maine Turnpike on a summer weekend, waiting seemingly forever for our turn to get through and continue making our way home. All around us were other cars with other sunburned, tired vacationers like us. “Isn’t it nice to see that so many people have been vacationing and having fun?” my parents used to say as the car inched forward fractionally.
No, I would think to myself. What would be nice would be to hit some open highway and get home. I wish none of these other people was here vacationing and having fun. They are all in our way and I want to get home.
But now I understand what my parents meant, and I’m glad their words have stayed in my mind. Maybe I’m just older than the people referred to on Morning Edition who feel envious and insecure about their friends’ photos; maybe I’ve just lived long enough to feel grateful any time anyone anywhere is having fun, and if it’s someone I know, all the better. I don’t feel bad that we didn’t go far this week, but I think it’s wonderful so many of them did.
I don’t think this suggests that I’m a particularly selfless person, just that it’s so clear to me that plenty can go wrong in life at any time, and seeing pictures of people enjoying themselves, even if it’s very far away from where I am right now, is a pleasurable experience for me. I wish them safe travels and a wonderful time. And yes, to be truthful, I look forward to posting some enviable vacation photos of my own next time a vacation week rolls around.