A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Beth Underwood: There’s a lot more to life than avocado toast and cats wearing sunglasses

Humor me, won’t you? Pull out your phone and look at your photostream. What do your most recent photos say about your life? Do they leave you feeling excited and ready to plan your next great adventure? Are you filled with memories and good times of days gone by?

Do they cause you to look around at your life and mumble to yourself, I really need to get a life?

Or am I the only one?

I bring this up because I found a random photo of a cat wearing sunglasses in my own photostream.

Based on nothing more than the photo, I was able to discern three things. I’d taken a photo of some sort of product. I had no idea what that product was. And I must’ve been bored.

Ordinarily, I would’ve moved along and gotten on with my day. But for some reason, this random cat photo compelled me to scroll through other shots in my photostream.

What struck me was that out of some 2,700 photos, a heavy majority weren’t photos of people, but of places and things. Often random places and random things. Like a partial to-do list, an image of a new face moisturizer I wanted to try or the boiled egg and avocado toast I photographed for no real reason whatsoever.

Some were screenshots of favorite quotes or sayings, others chronicled information for books — books in process and books still marinating in my mind. More than a few were screenshots of memes taken for no other reason than to share a laugh with my kids.

Yet very few contained people.

To be fair, there were a few pictures of family — one of Dad and me on Father’s Day, another of Colton throwing his hand in front of his face to block the photo he didn’t want me to take, and one of Stryker posing in the field behind the house after a run.

But that was about the size of it, unless I scrolled back to family birthday or holiday. Had we done nothing else worth noting? Had I missed out?

I wondered. If social media feeds were any indication, I was missing out on a lot. Because people on social media always have a lot going on in their life — to the extent that sometimes I tire from looking.

And maybe that’s the problem. Maybe I’ve grown complacent, taking life’s everyday moments for granted, content to sit with my popcorn and watch life’s activities from the bleachers. (Can someone melt some more butter please?)

I thought back on the last few weeks and examined my life. I wondered what stories could be told from all the photos I didn’t take? Luckily, I could picture it all in my mind’s eye, and the captions looked something like this:

“Here we are running interference while the dog and cat torment each other.” — Taken on any given evening about 8:30 p.m.

“This is us on the back porch after cleaning up the dead mouse Frost brought home.” — Taken at least every other morning.

“Oh, look — here’s a good one. This was last Saturday night when we watched a few episodes of the Mary Tyler Moore Show.” — Taken from the couch.

It was enough to make me reconsider a few things. Maybe I should be snapping photos of day-to-day life. Maybe I should create an ongoing album of those everyday activities we take for granted.

Or maybe I really should get a life.

Beth Underwood is an award-winning journalist whose work has appeared in numerous newspapers and magazines. She shares stories of everyday life that entertain, inspire, and encourage others. Her books include Gravity, a narrative nonfiction account of a small group of Tennessee National Guardsmen, and Talk Bourbon to Me, a lighthearted look at Kentucky’s native spirit. Drop her a line at beth@bethwrightunderwood.com, or visit her website at bethwrightunderwood.com.

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