“If only you could sense how important you are to the lives of those you meet; how important you can be to people you may never even dream of. There is something of yourself that you leave at every meeting with another person.”
Earlier this year I received an email from someone that made me realize why I was put on this earth.
He said that my writing and work with Resilient was the only reason he was still alive. I was shaking when I read his email.
A few years ago when I was depressed, I never thought that I would be the reason that someone in the future chose to live.
But here was someone whose life I had saved by sharing my story. In that moment I knew without a shadow of a doubt that this was the reason why I was put on this earth – to share my story with depression and give people hope to keep going.
I’d always wanted to change the world and make a difference in people’s lives, but I didn’t know that this would be the way I did it. I don’t like what I had to go through, but if everything happens for a reason then I understand why I had to endure those dark and depressing years.
It was so I could come out on the other side and be a light for people. So I could show people that it gets better when you decide to make it better. I never thought that this would be the way I was changing people’s lives (I was hoping for something a little easier and less emotional :)), but now I understand why I had to go through what I went through.
Isn’t it weird how one day we can be total strangers with someone and the next they can be completely changing our lives?
I’ve met a handful of people in my lifetime who had a significant impact on my life, and a few whom I impacted.
We go through life and we don’t even know who’s just going to be a stranger in the background drinking a cup of coffee and who’s going to play a leading role. Because everyone starts out as a stranger, but some leave a footprint in our lives.
I think about that handful of important people from time to time, because even years later, they’re still important.
I met a lot of individuals in college who had an impact on my life. Probably because those years are when you’re most trying to figure out your life and where you’re going with all of this.
I got an email once from someone saying that I had changed his life. I’ll probably never meet him, but I still got to play an important role in his life.
Some people are in our life for a short amount of time and maybe are there for a specific purpose, and some people are like ships passing in the night, floating in and out of our lives without ever meeting or only having a superficial relationship.
Some people have a long term presence in our lives, like family members and close friends, always there serving their roles as we serve ours.
I think this is one of the coolest parts of being a human. We get to interact with other human beings and shape each other’s lives and dance in and out of their lives as we go through this thing called life.
You’re never really alone. There are always people standing behind you in line at the grocery store, someone drinking coffee in the window as you pass by the coffee shop, cashiers, people on the bus, and other strangers you have yet to meet but could play a very important role in your life. Any one of them could be someone who impacts your life, or who you impact.
You never know.
A few years ago I started doing something that was originally done to save money but ended up being much deeper and more significant than I thought.
I was in college and was buying textbooks and a few books for fun and although I think I started out buying all new books (and spending hundreds on textbooks for my classes), as time went on I decided that used books would be just as good. I even bought a couple used books on Ebay and borrowed books from friends and read them that way.
I always had this bias against used books, like they were an apple someone had taken a bite out of. But I ordered a used book on Ebay one time, a spiritual book, and when I got it it was dog-eared and well-loved and had tiny writing scrawled in some of the margins. At first I figured it wasn’t a big deal that someone else had read and used the book. It wasn’t that beat up, and I was just reading it for fun.
But then I actually started reading what this person had written. And although there were only a few short notes in the whole book, I came to know her through the way she read the book, highlighted her favorite parts, and noted down her fears, dreams, and sometimes a Bible verse.
It was like meeting someone across the country and getting to know them on a deep level, without ever actually meeting. It felt like a profound spiritual moment.
We will never meet in person, and she will never know that I’m writing this blog post about a book I bought from her on Ebay, but I still know her from a used book, like a fingerprint unique to each person.
So I’ve started doing the same thing to my books. Although I probably could have resold them for more if they were in better condition, I started writing notes in my textbooks and adding commentary to books I’d give to friends. My math textbooks were full of notes like, “I have no idea what’s going on here” or “I’m never going to use any of this in my real life” (which is completely true :)) and although sometimes I felt like I was shouting into a void, I know someone somewhere will read the notes I left for them, an anonymous stranger, and laugh.
And maybe if they’re a business major studying financial accounting, they’ll appreciate my little jokes and I can brighten a stranger’s day for it.
I can only hope that they will do the same.
Sonder- “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.”
– Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows
Although the word “sonder” has changed from its original meaning and now has a somewhat made-up definition, it’s still probably my favorite word, at least the way it’s described here.
I like to wonder about strangers’ lives when I pass them on the streets or sit across from them in a coffee shop. I wonder if anyone is feeling the way I’m feeling in any particular moment, and given how big the world is, there are probably millions feeling a certain way at any given time.
It gives a whole new meaning to the phrase, “You’re not alone.” In moments of pain, you think that no one could possibly understand you. But with billions of people in the world, there’s probably at least one person out there right now feeling exactly what you’re feeling, which is both terrifying and exhilarating to think about.
Someone who just got married. Someone who was just diagnosed with cancer. Someone who was just accepted into the college of their dreams, and someone whose dreams just ended. Someone who is celebrating, and someone who is mourning.
At any given moment, every possibility is happening in the world.
At any given time, there is someone who understands you. And odds are, you may never meet that person (or those many people), but you can take comfort in knowing that someone would understand, if you ever met each other.
If you’re struggling right now, maybe there’s a higher purpose for it. Maybe there’s a reason you can’t even begin to see, for why you’re suffering. And maybe it won’t be years until you finally understand why you had to go through what you’re going through right now, but one day in the future, it will all make sense.
Just trust that.