Have you ever experienced: Sonder? This is the term coined by John Koenig as someone you may meet in your life, if only for a moment, that you may never see again. You become this small blip in their lives, such as a person passing by them in their car, or a background character you fixate on behind the person with which you are conversing as you formulate your thoughts in a café.
Here’s the official definition:
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.
I ponder sonder so often it’s scary. I feel tremendously sad that I cannot experience each and every one of these intriguing lives, and be there to help them in their time of need. But there’s more to this theory than ostensibly offered.
I’ll take it a step further. Surely all of you have met someone in your life that initially fit into this category of interaction, that somehow eventually became a through line to an important connection that propelled your life into exciting and terrifyingly new directions; paths in which would have not been possible without this seemingly random encounter.
Just today, I met these wonderful people while waiting for a table at Paddy Murphy’s for their pub trivia night. These are two people that I wish I had met sooner, for they are leaving tomorrow to Providence. Now I’m excited as I also met their teammates (and will soon participate in their other trivia night), but the immediate joy and following melancholy of our meeting is an emotional bittersweet pill that has happened to me once before; and most certainly to you as well.
I love meeting new people, and I’m fearful of the future of random interaction as a societal whole due to the technological leaps and social retreats (See?), but this is one downside of such chance brushes with strangers.
As for the story of a prior example of this… I’ll do my best to be concise, but a co-worker of mine had come into an inheritance from his aunt of which he was not a fan. So much so in fact, that he got all of the guys together at work and told us he was buying us lap dances at Diamond’s strip club here in Bangor.
Well, all said and done, everyone bailed except me (and I was married at the time; wife was cool with it). It ended up being me and the 43-year old single man with over $1,000 to burn.
Needless to say, we had endless drinks and lap dances. But it was the random concurrence of being there at the same time as a stripper who was to be married and move to Oregon the very next week. Not only was she cute, but she was highly intelligent, saving for their new house, and heads and tails above the typical skanks that infested the strip club.
We chatted her up (and employed her services) the whole night. Those other strippers were circling us like buzzards in the desert, looking to snatch up as much of that dough as they could- but we wouldn’t have it. We were smitten with our stripper and her personality. Okay, okay, her body was pretty rocking too (sans track marks!).
At any rate ($25 bucks/song), after that night, we friended her on Facebook (gotta love this techie world), and never spoke to her again aside from the obligatory birthday wishes. It was a night’s worth of sonder, but nevertheless, I most likely will never see her again.
But maybe one day I’ll bump into that chill couple, or that cute stripper, or they’ll think of me as they hear of something related to filmmaking or writing, and they will be the ones who help me in the future.
I just hope that I can help them too one day. Life gives you the strangest clues and paths, but you must be willing to see them and have the courage to take the first step.
Follow The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows by John Koenig…
And continue on this journey of crazed daydreaming by following this blog and of course, my Twitter @GuyOnAWire