n. 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.
As soon as I got back home for winter break, I started back up with my shifts at my old high school job of working at a boba and frozen yogurt shop. Since majority of the schools were out for break as well when I started to work, the multitude of 4-hour shifts were full of many, many boring seconds spent just staring out the window, waiting for a passerby to decide to come in for a random winter treat. The shop I work at is family owned, so I rarely have a coworker to chat with, and while I do have the luxury to basically do whatever I want whenever there’s no customer I have to attend to, it does get boring to have to pass the time that way as well.
When customers did sprinkle in from time to time, I took every moment to have a conversation with each and every one of them, mostly as a way for me to distract myself from the hours I still had on my shift, however many of my polite conversations stemmed into intriguing knowledge gained from the customer. I learned that New Zealand has a lot of huts on the same routes that many visitors and natives use to travel the country. I also learned that this one lady who used to be a regular of mine when I worked at the shop consistently has finally had her baby. Another customer of mine informed me of all of the flooding occurring throughout California due to the recent amount of rainfall. One customer told me of the benefits of eating chia seeds.
While all of this seems random and pointless to an extent, I felt like having this opportunity to hear the thoughts and sharing of others was a miniature look into them as individuals. All of my little interactions with these customers created this sense of wonder in my mind and a realization as well. I go through so many of my days, passing by a multitude of strangers, who have lives as complex as mine. It is so simple to go through each day, only thinking about my own individual problems, and forgetting that every single person who I simply glance at has their own tribulations in life as well.
Having that time during my work to just think about other people and their life impacted me to wonder about people I see outside of the time spent at my work.
I thought about that one lady in the parking lot who dropped her bag of groceries on the asphalt before making it into the trunk of her car. Does she have kids? Did she want kids? What’s she planning to do with her groceries? Did she drop that because her grip is loose? Or did she drop her bag because she was shocked by the sudden car honk from the street? Did she grow up as an only child? What’s her biggest fear?
While I was visiting LACMA, I saw this Asian couple – mostly because they were photobombing all of the photos of my family. Are they here on vacation? Are they from the United States or are they from another country? How long have they been dating? Or are they married? Are they going to post there photos on Facebook or Instagram or both or none or…? Do they like to do everything together or do they always make sure to have their time separated during the day?
My mind started to wander and think about the many different individuals I would see throughout my day. While not all of my thoughts may be deeply provoking, I always had a sense of realization as I let my thoughts wander about each person throughout the day and the many things that they have experienced, accomplished, and thought of throughout their lives and what they will continue to pursue in the amount of life they have left. Being about the see this in every single person, whether it’s a fleeting thought in my mind or a deep analysis of each person, has made me become much more appreciative of the complexity in the lives of everyone since it leads to more understanding and realizations in my own.