A journey to discover those who pass by.

On the youtube channel a dictionary of obscure sorrows there is a video on a made up word called Sonder. The definition it gives is, “the realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own.” This idea was apparent last year to me as I started a little extracurricluar activity with a friend of mine. I had a simple assignment in a COMM 1000 class to talk to someone who grew up in a culture that was different from my own. I have a family friend who works in ITS who I knew grew up in Germany, but that I did not really know a lot else about. I asked him if he would sit down and talk for a while and he agreed. After a few minutes into talking I realized his story was something I was not expecting at all. It included moving to Iran when he was five during the Iranian Revolution, and a number of other things. That is a different story for a different time, but the main idea was what else was I missing? Hearing stories like these was intriguing and just a great way to get to know new people. I knew I wanted to do more.

After discussing what had happend with my friend Gabe, we realized we did not really have a reason why not to start just asking people if they could talk over lunch or something. This was a little over a year ago. Now we have done about 20 of these conversations. The people have ranged from professors to faculty to community members. There have been a lot of takeaways from every conversation, but I wanted to go over a few of the big picture ones.

First off, after a few conversations we started to see a theme. The people we talked to encompassed a wide range of walks of life. I was worried at the beginning that we would have any common ground with the indiduals we were talking to. Even though with some of them we did not have a lot of concrete situations to relate with, it consistantly seemed that everyone had experienced and was going through a season of change in their life. One of the indiduals told us, “change is constant”. We must learn to adapt to these changes and accept they are a part of the human experience. This lens gives a situational awareness that is difficult to acheive elsewhere.

Lastly, I wanted to talk about vulnerability. To self disclose at all requires a degree of vulnerability. I have been incredibly grateful for how willing the people who we have talked to have done this. It is surprising to see how the people on Anderson Universities campus are open books. It shows that when people can live in an envirionment where they can be themselves they truly thrive. Without this vulnerability to share, it is difficult to learn anything of much substance. This is because the most valuable things to learn in life are often the ones that are discovered. This all can be learned through trial and error, but why do this when people who have done this are all around you? It is so easy to sit down and ask and learn. So do not let these opportunities pass by, but take the initiative to learn and listen.