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Just Outside The Frame

Just Outside The Frame

Just Outside The Frame

SEPTEMBER 14, 2018

Just Outside The Frame

I lived in Central America for seven months. I spent most of that time near the ocean. I fell asleep to the sound of the waves and chirping cicadas, and woke up to singing birds and sunshine.

I used social media to share my experience with my friends and family. I posted photos of palm trees, sunsets and the ocean at different times of the day. There are photos of me surfing and drinking beers with friends on a beautiful beach and hiking volcanoes. It looked like I was living in paradise, but not all is what it appears to be.

I was surrounded by natural beauty, but I was also surrounded by garbage.

Social media can be deceiving that way. When we see photos of white sandy beaches, turquoise waters and mountain peaks it’s hard to imagine the pollution, poverty and political instability that exist in so many countries. Just because we can’t see it that doesn’t mean it’s not there.

Where I was living in Nicaragua, Fishermen would haul their boats on shore every morning after being on the water all night and toss the remnants of their midnight meals on the beach along with the guts from their catch. On Sunday, families packed lunches and went to the beach. And while they soaked up their beautiful surroundings their lack of regard for the environment was apparent. Even after they pack up and go home their presence lingered with the beer cans, Styrofoam cups and paper plates that they left behind.

I don’t have a single photo of this scene because it’s not what I remember most and it’s not what I want to remember most.

Based on the photos I posted, friends made comments about how great my life abroad looked. My life was great, but I certainly had my fair share of challenges.

I was homesick, sometimes lonely, and thought too much about career 2.0. I questioned the journey that I was on. I wasn’t always confident about the decision I made to continue down that path, but like the trash lingering just beyond the lens of my camera, I tried to focus on the beauty; the good.

Social media has a bad reputation. We can be hard on people who post uplifting quotes or memes when we know they are on the opposite end of the ‘got it together’ spectrum. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen a post about someone loving their incredible partner knowing that the partnership wasn’t as strong as the post would lead one to believe. But so what?

It’s a privilege to have the kind of relationship offline where the point of view doubles and the bits of imperfection show up in the frame. It’s a gift to know that behind the photo of a cute baby or an island vacation there is a story that not everyone gets to hear.

This is when we love, not judge.

I speak from experience.

This is when we click the smiley face, heart and thumbs up.

I see you. I hear you. I’m with you.

We are all living in our own truths and sometimes the truth is we don’t want to deal with the moments in our lives that don’t feel that great. We see the paper plates littering the beach and the plastic bags in the sea, hell, sometimes we’re knee deep in trash, but what we really need is a sunset. What we really want is an empty turquoise sea. That doesn’t mean those plates and bags aren’t there, it just means there are so many other things that are – beautiful things.

Not focusing on hardships doesn’t make us inauthentic; it makes us human.


-Ashley Atkinson

Ashley is a surfer, yogi and writer living and loving in Calgary, AB. She aims to write the way she lives – freely and unapologetically.

Read more of Ashley’s essays at or follow her on Instagram @anothergirlnamedashley