Sonder: We All Have a Story

Jace Demar, Maroon-News Staff

Over the last four days, those of us who are first-years have had a myriad of events to attend with our link groups. Most of them were what would be expected from an orientation: a lecture about college drinking or an introduction to the history and traditions of Colgate. While these were no doubt important, they certainly didn’t leave a lasting impact on me as a person. One event over the four days did, however, have a much more profound impact. That was a series of stories from students titled In Your Company.

Five students stood on stage and told deeply personal stories of their own struggles. It was truly inspirational to see five students have the courage to talk about themselves in front of nearly 800 strangers. While all the stories were very different, they shared a common theme of trying to find a way to integrate their acquired values in their home communities with the new person that they had become in their Colgate community. As someone new to the Colgate community, this may very well be something that I struggle with this year, and I wouldn’t be surprised if other first-years do as well. It is important that we stay true to who we were brought up to be, but it is equally important that we allow ourselves to change and grow into a more complete person. That is, after all, one of the primary benefits of going to college. 

There was a sense of vulnerability in the Memorial Chapel that night. People had shared their hardest struggles, and in that there was some sense of comfort. It was hard emotionally, but it was very human. Real people were here in a place that only a few weeks ago had seemed almost mythical. None of us here are perfect; we all have problems. 

If I had to explain In Your Company with one word, it would be “sonder.” Sonder is defined as “the realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own.” Everyone that we happen to pass by – from the strangers we see eating in Frank to the people we sit next to on the plane when we fly home – has a life that is just as crazy as our own. They are feeling the same emotions and desires as we are. Unlike in literature, there is no such thing as flat characters in real life. We are all incredibly dynamic characters with our own intertwining stories. Grasping, understanding and internalizing this truth is essential. It breeds empathy. How can we treat anyone with anything but kindness when we know that they are probably going through the same struggles that we ourselves are going through? They may have even been going through a struggle so difficult that we cannot even comprehend it. We are all here together, and we are all trying to write our own stories, so let’s be kind.

Contact Jace DeMar at [email protected].