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The Magic of the Present Vol. 3 What The Disconnect of Social Media Can Teach Us Right Now

Updated: Aug 16, 2020

“Where troubles melt like lemon drops”*

We all have our own personal version of “Over the Rainbow”: a faraway place where we can go or a future point at which we will one day arrive, where everything will be as it was always meant – our “Happily Ever After”.

Whether it’s a vacation, a number in our bank books, or a dream home, all of us hold this vision of “Someday”, a marker of our future happiness. But as today’s ever-present, social media-drenched backdrop endlessly scrolls, the realized “Someday”s of others confront us every day in living Technicolor. We see others living their happy and wonder, “When will that be me?”

I know that this question frequently runs through my mind after any particularly long social media session. But on one beautiful day this past July, the Universe decided to teach me (on Instagram, of all places), in quite literal and dramatic fashion, that the happiness of “Over the Rainbow” may never arrive. In fact, it may not even exist. This could have been a life-shattering revelation. Instead, it set me on the most joyful journey of my life…

The journey to find true happiness within.

“Someday I’ll wish upon a star”

My journey starts all the way back in my teenage years, and like many teenagers of any era, I imagined myself to be close to invisible. Shy, awkward, introverted, and not in the “Molly Ringwald in Pretty in Pink” kind of way I wished. More than anything else, I dreamt of being cool.

So logically, as a music-obsessed young girl living in the South Jersey suburbs of Philadelphia, who walked through life with an imaginary soundtrack playing at every moment, my version of “the Rainbow” was the Music Festival.

As ridiculous as it sounds, I envisioned a music festival to be the ultimate transformative experience. I dreamt of being as edgy as Kim Gordon backstage with Sonic Youth at Lollapaloza; as ethereal as Kate Moss “glamping” at Glastonbury; as modern as Rihanna dancing in the crowd at Coachella.

Time marched on, and I had been very fortunate in life: the first in my family to go to college, realizing my dream of becoming a teacher. I had changed and grown so much. But it’s funny how some perceptions of yourself never change. And how some dreams never die…until they do.

The beginning of the end of my dream of “Someday” was setting the date, after a lifetime of waiting, for my first festival. And fitting that it was called a Ball. It felt as if my Cinderella moment was finally about to arrive.

“And wake up where the clouds are far behind me”

The morning of the final day of NYC’s Governor’s Ball dawned bright and beautiful. My sister and I traveled to stay with my brother in Brooklyn. From there we were set to head via shuttle bus to Randall Island, northeast of Harlem, and spend a day in the sunshine at the dozens of pop-up events: the American Eagle Experience, the OGX Beauty Playground, the Citi Rooftop Lounge–All the while of course, enveloped in a heavenly cloud of music.

We each had one-day tickets for Sunday, but had heard from my brother’s friend about how amazing Days 1 and 2 had been. But then, as we were diving into our pancakes, we received our first alert on social media that things weren’t going to go as imagined.

A storm had been brewing overnight, threatening dangerous conditions later that day. Take an actual island, add torrential downpours, multiply it by electrical equipment and an electrical storm, and it won’t equal anything good. The organizers and local officials were canceling most of the afternoon’s acts, along with all activities on the island for the day. And from there, the real storm began on Instagram.

To say that people were disappointed was an understatement. The number of comments on social media reacting to the delay was off the charts. So many acts that people were traveled so far to see had been cancelled.

But then came the pictures from the festival that was not happening…and the downpour of anger began.

“There’s a land that I’ve heard of”

The Governor’s Ball had social media posts scheduled to drop throughout the day. And around 1 PM, they did. If you had been anywhere else in the country following on Instagram, you would think that the festival was back in full swing, with the beautiful people hanging in the sunshine, having the time of their lives. The trouble was, they weren’t.

The comments were fast and they were brutal. “Where is this happening??” “Show us the truth!!” And other things that I could never repeat here. But it was in this moment that the paradox of social media, and the dream of Someday, was laid bare.

Social media seems to catapult most of us down one of two paths of thought. On the first, we feel disappointment because we feel that the images are “real”, or true to life. We feel as if our lives are not as exciting, and we begrudge the happiness of others. It sounds insane in black and white, but who among us has not felt that way at least once while on Facebook?

And then those on the second path, littered with those of us who imagine ourselves “enlightened”, as we can see through the facade of social media. we first feel angry because we “understand” that what we see across social is “fake”. We dismiss the happy we see splashed across our screens, because we convince ourselves that they could never be as happy as they actually seem. And we anoint ourselves somehow superior for not being “insincere”.

Obviously, neither of these mindsets are healthy. In both, we are unnecessarily focused on comparing our lives to others. Either by diminishing their happiness, or ours. And in the moment we compare, and we judge, we are pulled away from the importance of our lives, of our present. I saw this happening in real time, on a beautiful New York city morning. And I thought, perhaps its time for a new mindset, between the two extremes. For me, and for all of us.

“And the dreams that you dare to dream”

We had an amazing day in Brooklyn. Instead of being upset about the future that wasn’t arriving, we had a long brunch at our favorite spot Roberta’s in East Williamsburg, we talked about how happy we were to be together on the roof of my brother’s Bed-Stuy apartment, and watched the storm roll across the skyscrapers of Manhattan. And we celebrated the only moment that we had; the only one that any of us have.

I understood the magic of the present in a completely different way than I ever had before. Some “magical” future event or destination wasn’t going to magically change who I was, or make me happy. I had to accept who I was, and find my joy within, no matter the circumstance.

I thought, “message received”.

But there is one important part of the story that I’ve left out. My “Someday” was actually still out there.

“Really do come true”

The only band that we had really bought tickets to see was the festival headliner–a band that we had met and first seen play in front of a crowd of hundreds almost 20 years earlier–were still set to take the stage in front of hundreds of thousands at 9 pm. Hailing from New York City, and absolutely exploding into the spotlight in the span of a five date club tour in Philadelphia, they were a part of a music scene that had existed underground in small clubs in New York, Philadelphia, and Washington D.C. for many years. A scene still in love with old school rock and roll, more or less out of fashion in the 90s, but a home to so many of the “uncool”.

While the band in question was without a doubt always cool, we still felt that they were one of us, and in turn, their moment was somehow ours too. The underground had emerged into the mainstream (as it always seems to do in time). Tonight on Randall Island was to be our crown jewel of cool.

So in reality, I hadn’t actually learned my final lesson on the importance of the present quite yet. I was taking the Universe’s message in such stride because my future happiness was still out there for the taking. And because my present circumstances were nothing to be upset about; a day out in Brooklyn was far nicer than what so many people may have been doing on that day.

So I had had ‘literal’ from the Universe. Now I was about to receive ‘dramatic’. As we said goodbye to my brother at 8 to board a bus for Randall Island Park, we had no idea that another storm, stronger than the first, was taking shape out of nowhere. As we stepped off our shuttle onto the Island, I experienced ten of the most exciting and exhilarating minutes of my life…

Directly followed by ten of the most terrifying.

“That’s where you’ll find me”

In case you wondering why this story is set into volumes, it’s because the overarching narrative is far too long for one post. And I’m all about drama when everything is over and done with. All parties directly involved in the conclusion of this story are safe and unscathed.

And as for why this is Vol. 3, my backstories are mine alone for now, and I have the option of telling them in this space, or not. But in all honesty, the idea of a backstory is usually more interesting that the story itself. I mean, if prequels didn’t work out for George Lucas, what makes me think that I would fare any better??

But I do promise that Vol. 4 will be here soon. Until then, take a few moments to be happy for your friends on social media, then step away from your Insta account. Go and celebrate your own moment in the sunshine, or the rain. Don’t let that moment slip away, because there will never be another one like it.

Love and Blessings, and I’ll see you on the Yellow Brick Road.

XO, Maria

*”Over The Rainbow” lyrics by Yip Harburg

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