“This, I Believe…”

In English class, we were to write an essay about ourselves and our values. Though there are many hidden facets of a personality, I believe I illustrated a significant part of who I am in my essay.

As I searched for new songs to add to my playlist, I clicked one titled, “Lovely,” by a group named Sonder. Enjoying the r&b beats and vocals, I wondered if “sonder” meant anything. Hands raced to the keyboard, curiosity typed into the search bar, and eyes skimmed through words on the bright screen. I came across a website called, the Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows. “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.” Their lives continue constantly, even when I lack the awareness of it. It’s a word I learned during my freshman year of high school and a concept I think about at least once a week. 

When I went to New York, I visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art and stared in awe at each striking print, color, and composition. I walked into a lively room of ancient Greek sculptures and became captivated by their intricacies. At that moment, I understood how the great lengths of human capability allowed for such fine art. I was so stunned I had to take a seat. My eyes wandered while on a bench and I soon turned my attention toward the people in the room. Even though I went for the art, I became more interested in analyzing people who were analyzing works. How did they interpret what they saw? Did these pieces evoke the same emotions in them as they did in me? I waited for an opportunity to make a new connection, perhaps, a stranger would approach me. There was an opportunity every second to start a conversation and yet I did not. Maybe my selfishness, my fear of judgment held me back. I could have found a potential friend, a mentor, or simply made someone else’s day brighter.

Memorable things can happen when I do choose to say the first word. About two years ago, I asked about my Lyft driver’s day before I even closed the car door. Our small talk quickly evolved into a genuine conversation––he told me about his childhood, his careers, and that he had a daughter my age. I’ve forgotten her name and I never learned his but I still recall the enthusiasm in his tone with each story he illustrated. 

Who would have known how similar a middle-aged man and a high school girl had in common. His life embodied how I try to live mine––taking every opportunity I have, living spontaneously. I don’t know why I trusted him, but I did. I hope he too gained something from our discussion, despite how insignificant it may seem. I hope that talking with me extended his understanding of teenage girls, potentially giving some insight into his daughter’s actions. Even if I didn’t know him past the ten-minute car ride, the words he shared with me became a new lesson in my life.

I believe that the power of human connection is overlooked. If I close off opportunities for conversation, I’m preventing myself from discovering much more than what I can find in a textbook. My curiosity drives my intent to speak to those I come across. In a world divided by so many facets, I think it’s my obligation to build connections with as many people as possible. To listen to them, not listening to respond, but listening to understand. Although it is impossible to cross paths with everyone on this earth, hence the “dictionary of obscure sorrows,” I must actively try to interact with others wherever I go. These individuals have their own stories and I want to listen.  

Personal Essay

I peer out the window and see a tall frat-boy looking man, waving his arms sporadically in the light of headlights passing by. We slow to a stop. A gust of wind freezes my face as the passenger window rolls down. 

“Could I get a ride just a few blocks down?” This stranger asks desperately. He wore a maroon shirt and huffed out a sigh that left a cloud in the air. He told us his name was Kevin and that he had been stuck on the roadside for at least three hours. How strange–I thought to myself–what was he doing out there?

Hours earlier, my friend Alex and I were driving through the quiet streets of San Francisco, existing in our own little bubble, finding our identities in the tranquility of the night. I never anticipated an encounter with this particular person. Alex was okay with offering Kevin a ride and said the decision was ultimately mine to make.

I had to make a decision–one option potentially put my life in danger, the other would leave me with guilt and regret. If Alex and I had driven past him like everyone else, we would have continued our lives, willfully ignorant of all people with experiences worse than ours. Although I feared the possible outcomes of this situation, I wanted to know how Kevin ended up lost on the side of the road. My fear did not stop me from doing what was right. My heart rate heightened. I timidly agreed to let him climb in the back seat. Once we started driving, he told us his full name which consisted of at least seven names, four of which I don’t recall. We asked him why he was where he was and he replied in a groggily, monotone voice, “My phone died.” Although he reassured us of his harmless character, my heart continued to beat swiftly through the entire ride.

In a world where people only occasionally consider their relation to the eight billion other people on this Earth, it is important to act kindly toward each individual I come across. When Kevin told us he had been out there for hours, I felt like it was my obligation to fulfill his simple request of getting a ride down to the coast. Maybe I made a bad choice to pick up Kevin, maybe it was impulsive or irrational, but at that moment, it wasn’t about me. There was an opportunity to make someone’s life a little easier and so I took it. 

Though our society is divided into many factions, I’ve come to understand that every human is of equal value. My life will come and go, just like everyone else’s life. That is why I choose to act for others, despite how insignificant the gesture may seem, and despite the fear I will face.

I strive to do work that serves others. I strive to tell my stories as well as those of whom I’ve met. Every new human connection I make improves my knowledge of the world. I can’t neglect opportunities to learn because I’m afraid. By chasing my curiosities, I will become a better person as well as a better filmmaker. A film has the power to change millions of minds at once. I must use that power to bring the unknown into light. My films may change only a hundred minds, but if I am making people’s lives easier through art I create, then I owe it to them to keep going, to keep taking those risks.