The Instagramification of 30


“Michael, you seem really happy right now.”

“No, no. I mean, you actually seem really happy.”

“Are you really this happy?”

While I value happiness to be purely subjective, over the past two months and more times than I can count, friends and colleagues have contended that I am in one of the best states of wellbeing than they have ever seen in me.

“Michael, you seem really happy right now.”

At first, this was haunting.

And then it was sobering.

Should I be? Was I? According to whose standard? What is, “happy?”

As a skilled Instagram filter-user and twitter wordsmith, I chalked up initial concerns to be associated with the reality that social media and other tools for self-promotion (that’s all it really is, right?) reveal only what we want from them.

We control the keys, we sketch the answer, we move the dial.

Initial investigations lead me to believe that this all might actually be more than just a few Facebook posts and well-lit photos of my dinner. Perhaps, I was actually doing pretty well. Perhaps, I was, in fact, living in the murky waters of, “happy.”

What the hell happened to me? 

It was just one year ago that I was living in China, playing OneRepublic’s, “I Lived,” on repeat. I was begging for a sign that what I was doing and where I was living were more than just, “a wanderer wandering.” I was begging for a sign that ‘happy’ would come, and that it would be a seamless transition from the dissonance I was enduring. I was begging for an objective response to ‘happy.’ I was begging for a roadmap.

Alas, happiness is subjective.

It was a dear friend asking me the initial question yesterday that resulted in a bit of clarity around my conundrum.

“Michael, are you as happy as it seems?

Where does that come from?”

It was the second part of these questions that resonated with me most.

What had contributed to this change of pace?

According to Instagram, I love my new Fitbit. According to twitter, I’m moved by the Campbell Soup two-dads commercial. According to multiple platforms, I’m elated that fall is here. I love my community of friends in DC. I love food. Doughnuts on doughnuts on doughnuts. #NoFilter sunset. Photo of my super handsome partner.

These assertions are all so much more than a social media declaration. Each of these arguments ring very true for me – some just have a better filter than others.

So, what has contributed to this change of pace from the questioning and fluid state I was in just one year ago?


Okay, I’m kidding. It’s much deeper than that.

For starters, I found love. And I found it in the most striking of ways. While I’m not a perfect partner, I am learning to be loved even as a result of that lack of perfection. And this is absolutely okay. Accepting that I am not perfect (and may never be) is one of the biggest places of peace I have relished in as a young adult.

For years, I sold myself on the idea that if I worked really long hours and juggled dozens of tasks and to-do lists, someone would find me to be talented and successful and utterly appealing. This was not the case whatsoever.

I was left resentful and frustrated with the work I was doing, and in a lot of ways, I’m still surviving through this “ah-ha” moment. Instead, I have found joy in being present for my own life and the lives of others. Specifically, being around others who are living joyously or contributing to a joy-filled world is more important than a list of accolades or wins. This is my current win, and the unapologetic opportunity to be fully present is a new and exhilarating feeling.

While I valued being challenged at work, I assumed success to come in my personal life via the same method as I received as a professional. I lived in a space where I believed I had to always be facing some type of adversity. And then, beating it (whatever, “it,” might be for each journey). This was (is) exhausting.

I’m vowing to live a less exhausted life. And I hope you’ll do the same.

Finally, embracing 30 has informed much of my current outlook on life. A lot of people were actually nervous about this rite of passage for me. So much so, that before, “Happy Birthday,” sentiments, they inquired, “Are you okay?”

Making decisions for my person rather than my profession has become a new life mantra. I have come to realize that learning is not exclusively found in a classroom or office. Learning will happen in your personal life. Once we accept this reality, we are left with the opportunity to learn and grow.

Vulnerability is scary, but we’re all better because of it.

Whether it is the instagramification of 30… or 25… or just simply the instagramification of being happy, I challenge you to choose you. I implore you to be true to yourself in revealing how much or how little you need to be in your current here and now. “The only way upward is onward,” and all of that…

I’m thirty years old. How rad is that? I have a world of life and living to unearth, and in the times of good, bad, ugly, favorited, reblogged, and retweeted, I’m going to keep pausing on the good stuff, and breathing out the bad.

Will you do the same?

Here’s to something great…




7 thoughts on “The Instagramification of 30

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