I'm Consumed By Thoughts Of People I've Never Met

Before we start, I want to sincerely thank you for coming along with me on this weird and wonderful thought process. 

I always try to explain this to people, and even though I'm never successful, I'm going to try again. Every morning, before my feet hit the floor, it hits me how small I am in the grand scheme of the world. I wish I was joking, but I literally wake up thinking about that. I think about how many people exist in my town, my state, and my country who live entirely full and beautiful lives that I don't know about.

It's hard to explain, because most people look at me and say, "yeah, duh, of course there are billions of people you don't know." But the point isn't that I don't know them. The point is that I don't even think about them -- ever -- while I constantly think about myself. To me, my life is the center of the universe, which makes sense because I'm the one living it. I'm only experiencing my own life. To you, your life is the center of the universe because it's the grand total of things you experience every day. But there are billions of people who don't care about my life or yours, and we admittedly don't care much about them.

Follow me for a minute. Somewhere, right now, there is a girl sitting at her kitchen table feeling so stressed about her math homework. You never think about her, but she exists and she feels pain and she's living a full and beautiful and complicated life, somewhere, right now. There's also a boy on his way to soccer practice, there's a woman whose husband just asked for a divorce, and there's a young couple anxiously awaiting the arrival of their first child.

Right now, someone out there is feeling the exact emotion that you are feeling. Even if that emotion is complete loneliness and you're convinced that no one in the world could understand, I'd be willing to bet that someone does. Somewhere in the world there is a person who has faced the same demons as you; there is a heart that's been shattered just like yours; there is another pair of hands holding on for dear life. 

But there are also people celebrating the same triumphs as you: a new job, a college acceptance letter, an answered prayer. There is someone overcoming the same fears, letting go of the same complicated past, and thanking someone for the same generosity.

Don't you see? There are literally billions of us who, right now at this moment, are living complete and complex lives right alongside one another. Some of these people are the ones we walk past in the grocery store; some are the ones who cut us off in heavy traffic. They're all dealing with something -- they're all afraid of something. We are all navigating the same choppy waters as we attempt to make something of our lives. And it's time we discover how much change we can create in the world if we realize this and do something about it. 

I'm not sure why I'm constantly thinking about people who never think about me. I mean seriously: this topic never leaves my brain. I cannot walk through an airport without dreaming up possible lives for the people coming off the plane. I cannot sit in the car on a road trip without asking my mom, "what do you think the woman who lives in that house does for a living? Do you think she has kids? Did she just find out she has a terminal illness?" 

I'd call it a blessing and a curse to be this consumed by thoughts of people and their stories, but the truth is: it's not a curse at all. Thinking about other people -- thinking about the intricate and captivating lives they live and stories they have to tell -- actually helps keep my feet on the ground. It not only reminds me that am I not alone in this life or in the hardships I face, but it allows me to put my problems and complaints in perspective. How can my stress or anxiety be that big if I am so small? For that matter, how can anything be so bad if we're actually all in this together? 

We're all cohabiters of this same life. We all exist in this same moment -- this same chapter of history. And I fiercely believe that our chapters -- although residing within different books -- are being written at the same time for a very specific reason.

Our culture today is vertically-focused, meaning that everyone sets their sights on what's ahead and what's above. What does the future look like? How can I climb the ladder to success? Our line of sight is so linear -- so one-directional. 

But there are so many people in this world -- the ones we never think about -- that exist right beside us. And if we'd look around once in a while -- make our line of sight more horizontal -- we'd see that we have so much to learn from them. 

Michaela PatafioComment