Sonder—noun: 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. (Via the Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows.)
Everyone has a story.
We forget that. In a world full of rush-rush-rush and now-now-now, it’s so easy to gulp our air and occupy ourselves solely with the constant struggle to stay afloat in our own ocean. Our story is the most important one anyhow, right? Me-me-me. Us-us-us.
Yet we know this is not exactly true. We know a blinders-on existence settles into heartache and loneliness and a desperate life of ennui—often leading people to pills and drink and endless hours of Netflix flotsam, looking to plunge that video needle again and again for the trip to Check-Out Nation, keeping us dull and protected from the sharp pain of living.
Because there’s one thing we all know for certain: life hurts.
But it’s also the best thing going and—good news!—there are other people who can help.
- Others who have gone through what we are going through now.
- Others who are going through what we are going through now.
- Others who know, who understand, who would listen and help if only we would raise our voices above the whisper in our hearts and ask just once—brave and bold—for help.
But we don’t. We sit together in isolation, and we lament. To ourselves, to the blue screens of our laptops, to the dots blinking on our phones as we hope for the text that might just save us after all.
But, somewhere deep down, we already know that no single text can save us.
When what we need, what we desire, what we long for so hard that we would cry out in the night in the middle of our dreams, if we still dreamed (if we were not so sleep-deprived that we no longer enter the REM Kingdom where all our past haunts and future hopes live) is connection. What we really want is so simple, and yet so frightening, that we hide from it and run from it and anesthetize ourselves to the possibility of it.
Human connection. Person to person to person to person.
Why do we run? Because real connection takes guts.
But you have guts. You know this, so maybe it’s time to start acting like you do.
Brave isn’t a word reserved for battlefields or plane crashes. It belongs to all of us living and breathing in this landscape of life. Some days, just waking up and deciding to go on is a brave act witnessed by no one but us, yet still meaningful, still so, so, so meaningful.
So the next time that you find yourself adrift in this world, in this life, in this existence, I would ask that you remember this: there are others here who wish for the same things you do, who want to have conversations of depth and soul and integrity as we figure out how to live in this modern landscape, in this tech world of our design. People, like you, who are taking steps out of the confused now and moving towards a clearer, more connected, but sustainable, future.
- Find your way to sonder.
- Bring your voice above a whisper.
- Reach out and connect.
It might be the way we’re going to get through this.