I recently completed the first original idea I’ve had since Pinterest began. While I’m sure there are others who have done it, I hadn’t ever heard of it before. I decided to take a picture every day for 365 days. In order to remember to take the photo, I set an alarm on my phone for the same time every day. Therefore, it became the “7:00 Photo” every day for a full year. To keep myself accountable, I posted the photos on Instagram and Facebook. Then, because I apparently and unknowingly like data about my life, I analyzed the photos to determine what we do most of the time. This truly was a project for myself, so I just thought it would be a mostly-ignored thing I did on Facebook that people may want to emulate for their own pleasure. However, it wasn’t. It was actually a really eye-opening activity. Through my experience, I learned the following things:
1. My family is very social. At 7:00 pm, we were with friends 14% of the time in the past year, and were out of the house 33% of the time. Many friends said, “Wow! You guys are really busy!” Some said this with genuine concern about the fact that we rarely let ourselves relax. Others said this with true awe with a splash of envy (these were the friends who don’t get out very much). Some said this with a bit of judgment in their tone, making me feel, for some reason, as if I had to justify our social calendar. However, the majority of my Facebook friends said nothing with indifference, which I appreciate. In my recent quest for happiness (even though I am already happy), I have been reading The Happiness Project: Or Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have more Fun by Gretchen Rubin. Rubin explains how one key to happiness is surprise. Our minds like doing the unexpected and feel unhappy when doing the expected for prolonged periods of time. This rings especially true for me, as I thrive on change. I love surprises. I didn’t find out what gender my children were going to be because that was the biggest surprise ever. In fact, it’s almost impossible to surprise me, because I usually have already have considered several different ways that other people could try to surprise me before they even thought about it. So, yes, my social calendar was and is full of myriad experiences from new restaurants to new undertakings like kayaking in The Everglades, canoeing on the Brule River, or attending a legitimate barn dance. Our social calendar is so full it makes me crazy. However, I love doing things outside of the house and I love being generally social.
Here we are being social at a restaurant with a photobomber.
Here is us pausing from chasing crabs in Jamaica to take a 7:00 photo.
2. Everything looks better with a filter. Our lives stopped at 7:00 pm every night for 365 days. That means that no matter what we were doing—if we were arguing, tediously making lunches, or chasing crabs in Jamaica, my alarm went off and a picture was taken. Some of these pictures make our lives look ridiculously exciting and make us look so interesting. People said, “I love seeing what you guys are doing every night.” When looking back at the pictures, it’s easy to see what people saw. What they didn’t see was the freak out about not wanting to have the picture taken, the dozen or so pics that were deleted because someone’s eyes were closed, someone else was blurry, or I looked like a dude, or the person who wasn’t in the photo because they were having a bad day. We adopted a new puppy this year, which is definitely one of the most clearly filtered pics. That dog is adorable. The photos make me want a puppy again. But when we were going through the puppy stage, I was ready to give that dog to a new family and vow to never own another pet for the rest of my life. He would pee everywhere and when the alarm went off an hour later, I’d take his picture and he’s look like he was straight off of a book fair poster at an elementary school. At 7:00 pm, some pictures may have looked like they were taken during an episode of Full House but they felt like an episode of Super Nanny before she “fixes” the family.
Here is a picture of our dog the day we brought him home. He’s so cute here…
Here is a picture of us when our flight was delayed in Atlanta, causing us to miss the festivities of a wedding in Jamaica, including a day of bonding with the other attendants and the rehearsal dinner. We don’t look like we were in a depressed fit of tears earlier, but we were (ok, I was. He wasn’t. He slept off his pain while I cried).
3. People were very generous with their “likes.” This made me realize that perhaps I am too stingy. I took this as a compliment. I felt one with my Facebook friends who “liked” pictures of our messy house, our lunch-making, or the Buddha at yoga class. I felt like there was a solidarity in knowing that we, too, were just watching a movie on a Friday night or were making lunches (again) on a Tuesday.
This picture I entitled “Chaos,” was liked 20 times with 5 comments, probably because other people were experiencing chaos at the same time.
4. Some people get really irritated by Facebook. I had a couple of people ask, “When are you going to be done with that?” with a really annoyed look on their faces. My reply was, “You don’t have to look at it. It’s really just a thing I’m doing for myself,” and then I became all high school-pleaser-girl, saying, “Yeah… It’s getting annoying,” even though I really didn’t find it all that annoying to do. (in my head I was thinking, “Unfollow me. I’ll never even know!”) I did this for my family and me.
5. People were excited about their cameos in the 7pm photos. Some friends reminded me when I’d forgotten, others would ask if we could wait to do something until 7:00 so it could be photographed, and others would start the evening by saying, “Yay! I get to be in the 7:00 photo tonight!” Then, six or more pics later to make sure we had the perfect angle and the perfect filter to make us look like we’re magazine-worthy, we were ready for posting. I’d include a picture here of someone who was excited to have their picture taken, but it wouldn’t be fair to other people who were equally as excited.
6. While I may question it, we actually do spend a lot of time with our kids. At 7:00pm, 25% of the past year was spent actively hanging out with them by reading, biking, camping, watching movies, etc, and that is not counting our family dinners. In fact, “hanging with kids” was something we did more than anything else this year, which it totally should be. My husband and I do things without our children, but we also do a lot of things with them. This year alone we went to Springfield, a water park, we each had individual date nights with each child, we went camping, and even to Florida, courtesy of my mom and stepdad. We were away from our kids 14% of the 7:00’s in the past year, which feels like more than it should be, but that also means that we were not away from them 86% of the time. Some people may argue that it isn’t healthy to be away 14% of the time, but I’d counter that by saying it isn’t healthy for my marriage to be away much less than that. We are fortunate to have two sets of grandparents who love spending time with our kids, so they often ask us if they can take them during the evenings without our prompting.
Here we are visiting Springfield, IL
7. The majority of people liked the window into our daily lives. This was surprising to me, since it’s not all that exciting. Upon analysis, we were eating dinner in 21% of the pictures, doing housework or homework in 8% of the pictures, reading in 5% of the pics, and were at home in 67% of them. Additionally, 21% of the pictures were of inanimate objects like plants, books, yoga mats, or groceries. I didn’t think I would receive such positive feedback from so many ordinary photos. People were very, very kind, saying sweet things about pictures that I didn’t expect to receive any feedback. This project indirectly gave me a feeling of optimism. Sometimes it is easy to get caught up in the negative, but by taking one simple photo every day for a year it was easy to see that the positives far outweigh the negatives. It was refreshing to pay attention to that every day for one year.
This (kind of boring) picture was one I took to say we may have a game-buying problem. People responded by saying we need the game “Othello” because that isn’t on our stack or “I see nothing wrong here…”
8. We are quirky. I always suspected this… In fact, I never wanted to be have an ordinary life. However, seeing the crazy faces my kids (and husband) make for pictures, the weird things we do, the dance parties we have, the experiences we seek out, as well as the very few photos taken doing “typical” things like watching TV, playing video games, etc, make it clear to me that my dream of not living an “ordinary” life has been realized, even though I sometimes feel as if life is pretty ordinary.
This one is to show that this is really not that abnormal in our house
I thought that this idea might become a trend on Facebook; I thought that maybe I’d start a new revolution of photo-documentation. Sometimes I’m way cooler in my head than I am in real life, so I think people might like my ideas more than they actually do. One of my friends has started her own daily picture, but I think some people were afraid to steal my idea. So here is my invitation to all of you to do it! This is an incredible way for others to gain insight into your true lives and for you to be self-reflective. It’s a gift to be able to think about every day you lived for the past year—the good and the bad. Not only can you have a single memory of every day for a year, but you also end up with gratitude for those moments. And it takes much less time to take a picture on your phone than it does to write down the memories. In fact, I have considered continuing with this, without posting the pics. I think my Facebook friends have seen enough of our family for a while.