From a Teen’s Perspective: Living life in one take

by Dylan Lanier on October 10, 2023

I was having lunch with my sister, cousin, and grandparents at Alpine Inn last weekend. We were sitting around the big wooden table, chatting about our recent lives while we waited for the food to arrive (pro tip: try “The Besio” pizza, it’s delicious).

Our conversation flitted through various topics until we landed on school. I gave updates on all my classes and particularly shouted out how much I was enjoying my photography course.

My grandpa is an avid photographer, and I owe my love of the craft to him. He used to take me and my cousins on gorgeous walks where we all took photos together. He taught us not only how to work the camera but also how to find and fully capture the beauty in our surroundings.

I remember one day my grandpa and I sat down at his computer to edit a few of the photos I took. He guided me through the process as we altered the lighting, enhanced the colors, and sharpened the images until we were both satisfied with the finished product. I fell in love with my own photos and felt a mixture of pride and awe that I was able to make something that in my eyes looked professional and utterly unique.

However, the edits were quite minimal. My grandpa wanted to uphold each photo’s authenticity and preserve their aesthetics.

He prioritizes the original shot over the editing. He meticulously adjusts his camera in order to capture his exact vision in the moment instead of using his computer later to craft something that never existed.

That day at Alpine Inn, I showed them one of my recent photos — a layered image that depicted three versions of myself playing different childhood games.

“That’s not photo work,” my cousin said. “It’s photoshop work.”

He was entirely correct. I had spent 10 minutes taking the photos and 45 minutes editing them together. Sure, it looked cool, but it wasn’t real in the same way that photos without lots of edits are.

His observation got me thinking: Do we live our lives beyond the moment and lose some of the joy in the present? For the most part, I think we do.

When we know we can “edit” our lives, we have very little incentive to devote our effort and attention to the present. Take our relationships, for example. To many of us, our connections with other people seem like constants and so we tend to lose sight of their value. We tell ourselves that we can spend time with them later or wait longer to get closer. We believe there will be a million chances to alter our relationships in the future, so it’s not as important to maintain and appreciate them in the present.

Another example is our hobbies. We often spend our time on projects that we don’t really care about just because we think it will bring us fleeting satisfaction. We think that after all is said and done and we’ve finished tasks that never brought us joy, we can finally sit back and be happy. But we shouldn’t wait to live our lives how we want to.

Happiness isn’t like credit; you can’t store it up and then produce it at a moment’s notice. Happiness takes work, and requires a constant dedication to your needs and desires. We should make time for the things that bring us joy because life is never supposed to be dull. Like my grandpa knows, there is beauty everywhere, and the best life is made by stringing together that beauty in every frame.

We should experience our lives to the fullest and not assume we have time as a safety net. There’s a big difference between planning for the future and waiting for the future. We may look ahead but we should also give much more focus to the wonderful things our current lives can provide.

Instead of relying on your ability to alter the narrative after it happens, let yourself live in one take and you will see our vibrant world through a whole new lens.

Got any topics you want me to cover? Email with your requests!

Dylan Lanier is a senior at Menlo-Atherton High School; his column appears weekly.

Photo by Jamie Street via Unsplash

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