You are the protagonist of your own novel. The main character with ambitions, goals, and intertwined friendships that are unparalleled. Although you have character flaws and lapses of judgement, your book is written solely about you and the personal connections, friendships, and families you’ve accumulated or been born into.
Take a step back now, close your theoretical book and place it on the shelf in front of you. Instead of a shelf, you’re on a busy street in New York City and no one seems to grab at your book. Individuals pass by without even acknowledging you or your story.
This is sonder.
By definition, sonder is 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.
This is a sobering reality as to just how small you are. Your tendencies and normal day to day activities are only directly observed by yourself and those with which you come in communication with. More often than not, even those whom you come in communication with at work or passing by in traffic, have no idea about anything you’re facing. No clue on how your ambitions are fleeting as you sit behind your steering wheel. No idea that you still have desires to be an astronaut or a teacher or a firefighter.
I noticed this phenomenon as I’ve been in and out of airports for the past few months and the immediate tendency I exhibit in taking comfort in my cell phone. I deter from social situations because in my mind I want to lay low, but, it’s my excuse to find my bubble to stay safe in. Those that I know, those that know me, those that care about me and vice versa. I find safety and solitude in knowing what is going on around me rather than examining individuals whom I’ve never met nor will encounter ever again.
It’s a strange reality observing that others have ambitions and goals and lives outside of what you are seeing. They travel and visit far off lands for vacations stemming from the same airport you leave from. When you acknowledge that others have individual motives and lives outside of your own, you quickly realize just how small you are. However, regardless of how small you are, you have the innate ability to impact others stories and become a part of their narrative just by being present.
Wishing you an amazing day and an even better weekend.
*Side note short video in the comments below that I love on Sonder
“There is no such things as strangers, just friends we’ve yet to meet.”
Brant A. Wickersham