This email isn't about Elon Musk

It's about living in the moment & flowers

Kinsey Grant
April 26, 2022

Some Fridays you feel super inspired to write and some Fridays you feel nothing but the need to buy some French ham and a fresh sourdough baguette and take them to Central Park to lie on the grass ’til the sun goes down.

Want to guess which kind of Friday I had? That’s why you’re getting this today, which is not Friday. Enjoy something new on a new day!

Did it for the ’Gram

When we got off the F train in the Bronx, it was clear I’d been a bad New Yorker. Or at least a fake New Yorker, the kind who’s only really spent time in Manhattan and the parts of Brooklyn that feel like Manhattan. It was my first time in this borough, my first time above Columbia’s campus, and as my turning-circles-zooming-in-on-Google-maps indicated, my first time looking for the bus.

But for what I lacked in direction, I made up for in resolve. I’d set out for the New York Botanical Garden in time for the tail end of both Jeff Leatham’s extravagant orchid show and Mother Nature’s fickle cherry blossoms. The hour-long pilgrimage would be well worth it.

I planned my outfit the night before—brightly patterned Lilly Pulitzer pants that once belonged to my mom in the early 2000s. A disposable camera I bought at CVS in my purse. Freshly blown out hair. Shoes that precariously teetered the line between style and comfort. I stalked the Botanical Garden’s spring bloom tracker like an animal does its prey. The picture perfect weekend, in my crosshairs.

I hardly made it past the ticket booth before it hit me—not the scent of lilacs but the uncomfortable knowledge that I was just like everyone else: dually motivated by a yearning to see nature…but also by a yearning to show the online world just how much nature I was seeing.

I wanted my boyfriend to take a cute photo of me so that I could post it online. It’s embarrassing to admit that to all 2,000-something of you, seeing as I’ve scarcely admitted it to myself. Here I was on an intoxicatingly gorgeous spring day, surrounded by flora and fauna, and my thoughts gravitated toward something along the lines of that’s a great backdrop for a candid.

I feel so disappointed in myself for that.

The only solace I’ll allow myself is that I wasn’t alone. As I walked through the Botanical Garden’s impressive grounds in my almost-uncomfortable shoes, I tallied hordes of young women just like me: dressed with precision to convey a very specific personal brand (Hill House Home girlies only slightly outnumbered Djerf Avenue girlies), armed with at least one companion whose sole purpose was to document the outing in perfect lighting, engaging in a ritual as old as Instagram itself—pose for photo, ask for another photo, wordlessly snatch the iPhone to meticulously zoom in on your face or body or hair or skin, express dissatisfaction, lather, rinse, repeat.

The thought that I was no different from those hoping, praying, pleading for one good picture to post online haunted me on the walk around Fordham’s campus, haunted me as I nibbled on my spinach byrek at the Albanian restaurant my boyfriend insisted we try, haunted me all the way back to my apartment.

I thoroughly relished the Botanical Garden. I said no fewer than 13 times this is the best day I’ve ever had to the person with whom I’ve had many of my very best days. The beauty of our natural world hit me in the gut and I was grateful that I got to experience such grandeur. I even journaled about how astonishing flowers are—the concept that they physically defy gravity in an effort to grow toward the sun, the root of all gravity itself.

But knowing that I’d happened upon that enlightenment in some performance for my followers nagged at me. Why did I feel the need to post a story of my boyfriend with the location tag? Why did I take 38 pictures? Was it really all for the memories, or was it because somewhere in the back of my dopamine-addicted brain I was hoping for something worth posting as a signal to the world that I’m having fun and doing exciting things?

No seriously I took multiple dozens of photos, most of which are apparently of Coleman sniffing flowers? Art

I wonder what it might have been like to go phone-free to see the cherry blossoms, whose purpose has been diluted down from life-giving flowering to serving as an Instagram backdrop. Would I have had even more to journal about had I not been preoccupied with documenting it all for my followers? Would this spring Saturday have been even more transcendental if I were off the grid?

Yes, maybe. But it’s hard to say—because despite the fact that our phones are not tools but appendages and the things we do on them are not infrequent indulgences but daily addictions…I wouldn’t have known about the orchid show had it not been for a post on Instagram. And perhaps my (TW: dump) photo dump from the weekend encouraged some other bad New Yorker to trek to the Bronx to see the azaleas. And maybe taking too many photos isn’t all that bad because someday my children will want to see what I was like before they were born.

These two truths can coexist: 

Our collective obsession with signaling online that we’re having “a great time” has both created unrealistic standards for everyday living and diminished our capacity for recognizing the power of a moment when it’s only experienced through an Instagram Story lens.

;and

Social media and modern technology have illuminated paths and connected the world to new people, new ideas, and new experiences that would have been otherwise unimaginable in a global community considerably smaller than the one we currently occupy.

I’ll remind myself of that duality next time I engage in a picture perfect activity. Because picture perfect is subjective anyway, right?

News and goings on this week:

  • Elon Musk bought Twitter. The Official Statement On The Matter From The Desk Of Ms. Kinsey R. Grant: What the f*ck, man.
  • I interviewed Mark Cuban about the American dream and Dan Runcie about Coachella (which is, if you really think about it, a near perfect distillation of the American dream in a late-stage capitalist reality) on my YouTube channel. Subscribe! More interviews and dare I say experimental content (?) coming there this week.

That’s all for now (she said, as she always does, like 4,576 words later). Thanks for reading! See you Friday……..maybe.

-Kinsey

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What if we all stopped to think a little harder? To have conversations with each other? What might the world look like? I’m Kinsey Grant and together, we’re gonna find out.

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