11/12/13

hit with sonder

 
 
 
sonder:
n. the realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own—populated with their own ambitions, friends, routines, worries and inherited craziness—an epic story that continues invisibly around you like an anthill sprawling deep underground, with elaborate passageways to thousands of other lives that you’ll never know existed, in which you might appear only once, as an extra sipping coffee in the background, as a blur of traffic passing on the highway, as a lighted window at dusk.
 
She sat there in her room sobbing softly into the cell phone. "Mom, I just don't know how I can do this." Her, who always had smile on face and friend in arm. Her, who never looked weak or caught off guard or insecure. Her, who put on clothes each day that fit her frame perfectly. Her, who never wore make up because her eyes were too blue without the eye liner and her skin was snow white without the foundation and her lips were perfectly pink without the lipstick. Her, who I never thought would be so low that she would call her mother in sobs of desperation.
I stood by the door, unsure of what to do. Do I comfort her? This seemingly perfect friend? Do I leave her to privacy because this is her business and she will let me in on it if she wants?
But these questions are nothing to the others in my head, the ones wondering why she is so sad, so lonely, so sobbing softly? Because she seemed to have the perfect life, and I was always the one stumbling through my days, trying to have the courage to speak up and the wisdom to shut up. Trying to find the clothes that look okay because in my eyes nothing looked good. How could she be calling her mom with these same struggles?
There are moments, like this one, when I am hit with sonder. Sometimes it happens at unexpected moments; when I sit in coffee shops and hear hearts speak freely to one another of all the problems and issues and pains of their days, when I work in group projects and realize that others are busy too, overwhelmed too, overloaded too, when I actually stop to ask a friend how they are and hear their response.
To be hit with sonder is to be a little less self absorbed, a little less full of one's self. Because when we are hit with sonder we realize that we are not the first to experience loneliness, nor will we be the last. We realize that we are just one in seven billion who want a hug, who want companionship, who want to be listened to.
To be hit with sonder is beautiful and something we must seek out. We must stop and realize that those around us---friends, family, strangers, professors, bosses, coworkers---all have lives and stories and quirks and insecurities. 
Go get hit with sonder. Take some time each day to realize just how big this world is, just how beautiful each story is, just how great potential each life has.

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