The tricky thing about before and after photos

Happy September!
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I just returned from two and a half weeks in Sicily with my partner, our son, my parents, my in laws, and about 15 others constantly coming and going from the home we stay in. I’ll use the term “vacation” as a relative one hereon.
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Two days into this trip I took the selfie on the left. To say that I was surprised by the look of strain on my face is an understatement. But after about 24 hours of travel with a toddler and my folks, and honestly after four years without a real vacation, could I really expect anything else?
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On the last day of this vacation, I took the picture on the right. This was after 17 days of not cooking 3 meals a day for three people, taking daily afternoon naps, swimming in the Ionian sea and a backyard pool, watching my toddler learn how to swim without swimmies (epic!), and REALLY FUCKING GOOD TOMATOES. No wonder I look more relaxed.
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And yet…what neither of these photos capture are the day-to-day struggles I faced (we all face), the personal demons I wrestled with over the course of this vacation, my own challenges with compare and despair thinking, and the stresses of returning to reality.
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This is how it is with all before and after photos. They might highlight one aspect of our experience but we are not one-dimensional beings. Rather we are complex, emotional, confused and confusing, ever-changing and infinitely powerful.
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So the next time you encounter a before and after photo, or before and after story, meme, ad, etc., remember that this is just one (potentially technologically altered) piece of a highly complex and multi-layered puzzle that can never be reduced to a single image. You/we are so much more than that.