I recently learned the term “sonder“.
Sonder is basically that feeling you get when you look out at a big city and realize that there are a hundred thousand people all living lives as interesting and rich as yours, and you will never know them or their story. Every person you drive by on the way to work is an extra in the movie of your life, but if you shift the camera just a little bit to the right, they become the star of the film and you’re just an extra in their life.
And so on and so forth in this incredibly elaborate network of lives…and, for some reason, that concept is overwhelming to me. Add that to my tendency to romanticize the most trivial of daily life in order to find the most beauty in it, it gets…to be a lot.
I never knew there was a term for how my mind works, all the time. It’s comforting, I suppose, knowing that other people think the same way.
Today, I went to the thrift store, and I found, like, the most amazing dress. Just…perfect. And just to be 100% sure, I wanted to try it on.
So I went to the changing rooms and waited. And waited. And waited. Two rooms, both occupied. One was occupied by a woman who sniped it right out from under me, but the other was occupied by a mysterious stranger, who I could see nothing of but her feet (white crew socks) and an ankle tattoo.
And she. was. taking. forever.
And I started to get irritated. Trying on 40 billion things at once is just rude, and my back felt like crap and I just wanted to know if the dress was going to fit and I only really had one thing and this was stupid and I hated Crew Socks and her stupid tattoo and I wanted to go home.
Click. Another hanger over the door. Crew Socks is moving around, and I hate her more because I see she’s got 15 hangers lined up over the top of the door, and she’s not counting down, she’s counting up, which means she’s got a pile in there, so I’m going to be here even longer, and now my back is really hurting and I’m freaking out about the pizza I just ate and My. Life. Is. Terrible.
So at this point, I’m debating whether or not to like, do that awkward knock thing, but that would make me a bitch, and I’m leaning awkwardly into the capri pants behind me, and I basically want Crew Socks to die in a fire.
Only this time, her hanger misses and a pair of suit pants falls to the floor.
Fucking Crew Socks and her goddamn suit pants, I hate her.
I’m legit mad at this point, and then I start feeling like an idiot for getting so mad over something so trivial…Crew Socks is trying on clothes, and she is taking awhile.
So then I start thinking. Maybe Crew Socks has some sort of shitty pain disease and is having a bad day, so trying on clothes is harder for her, so she’s taking a long time. Maybe Crew Socks has a huge job interview next week that she’s been waiting months for, and she’s terrified and nervous and is looking for the perfect outfit to nail the interview to get the job she needs.
So then I start wondering if she has kids. And if they do well in school. And if she has a boyfriend, and what he might do for a living, and whether or not they get along. Why she shops at a thrift store. What her parents did. And this took long enough that Crew Socks emerged from the dressing room, I smiled and I stepped inside (and the dress looked awesome on me by the way).
And that was it. I was just the girl waiting to get into the dressing room after her.
It’s stupid, I know. And no, there’s no touching moral ending where I notice that there was a hole in the bottom of her shoes so clearly I was right all along, especially when I saw her unlock the orphanage van in the parking lot and there are 25 shelter kittens in the back.
It is difficult for me to drive through big cities at night for this same reason. When I was a kid, I used to love to drive around at night when people’s homes were lit up so you could see inside, and I would wonder about the people who lived there and what they did and what they had for dinner and if they liked their jobs.
On nights like this, once I get into that weird sonder-y mindset, I am reminded why I am so terrible at being alone. From my perspective, I am great at it. Once I am in and settled, facing people seems like a monumental effort, and step one: put on pants is just really too much work, and besides, it’s not like I’m ever going to know everything about the universe anyway, so really, what’s the point?
But I also know that I need people to distract me from my wonderings. It’s a tough balance. Before Jake went out of town for the week, he gave me a stern lecture on “make sure you hang out with people”, because he knows that blanket+netflix+comfy pants= you will not see me for days.
So tonight, I am awake, later than I should be, thinking about…everything. All at once. Which is noisy and not necessarily condusive to sleep. And tomorrow, I will get up and drive by hundreds of people on my way to my job, where I will see hundreds more, and then go to the store, or go home, and all of those people will have lives and stories and friends in their lives that I will never know…
Sonder is a bitch, I guess is what I’m saying.