For those uninitiated, sonder is defined as follows: 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.
A brief story set in New York.
Somehow, I got into my head that I must to move to a city. I wanted to lose myself beneath gigantic concrete, glass, and steel behemoths and in between millions of denizens. So, I packed a suitcase and went to New York, NY. Youthful anticipation is beautiful and naive. I had saved up enough capital for my rent and daily expenditures, and I had planned a sizeable list of things to do. I was bursting with excitement, I could not wait to live in the Big Apple!
On the third morning after my arrival, I left my apartment with a self-guided tour of the New School in mind. Fast forward to me heading down the yellow line near Prince street. There I was, sitting on some train car, underground, moving 30 mph, when four men approached me and asked for the time. As soon as I pulled out my phone, I was punched square in the jaw and I was knocked to the ground. The moment was surreal, absurd. I can remember seeing blood drip from my mouth to the ground, and I can remember looking for the others on the train. I wasn't looking for help-- I knew that wouldn't come. It was a disappointed, defeated gaze. I was drawn to my feet by one of the men, and, again, I was queried for the time. For a second time I moved for my phone; I read the numbers on the screen, 1:27 pm. They replied with a, "Thank You," and exited at the next stop.
I forwent my trip to the New School and returned home where I immediately threw my list of activities in the trash. It was not going to be like this and I was not going to do that. Those men had taken my naivety, but in return they gave me time. From that point forward, I spent my time observing others and losing myself in my being.
The city was no longer a fairytale; it lied naked before me. It was a battleground and a playground. In five minutes on a subway I saw the worst of humanity, in the remainder of my trip I had prove that humans could be great as well. Weeks later, I met a future amazing friend in a bar that I frequented. We began talking mutual interests: film, music, travel, art, everything. We both happened to be frisbee fanatics so I suggested we throw some disk. We agreed and spent following at Bryant park making each other laugh.
With this, my story comes to a close. Humanity's beauty is usually not found in grandiose efforts of altruistic sacrifice. Though it does happen that way sometimes, it usually presents itself in the mundane. Two people, throwing a frisbee, on a small patch of green, lost in tangled metal. I am not imparting a philosophy of life or giving worthwhile advice. Understand that we live our individual lives and only you can decide how you will affect others.
P.S. This message is dedicated to April for introducing me to The Listserv.