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The Trouble with Sonder | Emma Malcolmson

I don’t know if it’s the lockdown or if it’s just the fact that I’m not playing the full deck, but something has been bothering me immensely for the past few weeks. So much so that it’s taking over every car journey or walk I go on. It’s sonder. For those that might not know, sonder is ‘the realisation that each random passer-by is living a life as vivid and complex as your own.’

The trouble with the sonder I’ve been experiencing is, I worry that it’s a reflection of what I fear most. More often than not, the type of sonder I’ve been experiencing is observing random strangers, wherever they or I might be, and worrying that they’re sad or that they’re not content in what their life has turned out to be. I realise that this may be a self-fulfilling prophecy on my part, but isn’t that what writers are? Vain, self-pitying and arrogant? Writers, you see, either have chips on their shoulders, are angry at the world and blaming it for all their lives problems. Or, they have a broken, at times, a heavy heart and see the beauty in the pain that is life. I, perhaps, am a balanced mix of the two. Am I just unbearably self-aware, or perhaps quite the opposite? Am I just deflecting my own worries and fears onto complete strangers in an attempt to avoid my biggest fear? Living an unfulfilled life.

As we sit on hold, waiting for the world to pick up our call again, are we better to ignore the repetitive hold melody or just face the music and listen? It seems I’ve chosen the prior. Having your life put on hold for over a year isn’t ideal for someone who was so used to constantly doing something. Anything. If the past year has taught me anything at all, it’s that I simply cannot stand the constant humdrum of waffle that constantly runs through my head. I see the irony in a writer not standing the sound of their own thoughts, but I suppose that’s why we write them down: to get them out of our heads. A release of sorts. It’s far easier to write down your worrisome inner monologue than giving someone else’s ears the burden.

It seems instead of listening to my own thoughts; I’ve begun making up thoughts and feelings for people I don’t even know. Random passers-by have been tarnished by the assumptions of my mind that they’re not happy in life. I worry that they’re lonely. That they’re discontent. That they’re resentful that life never offered them more: never offered them what they deserved. That they’re heart-broken or simply just not loved enough. And I cannot stop these thoughts plaguing my head.

If it could’ve happened any other way, it would’ve, right?


Emma Malcolmson


Instagram: @emmamalcolmson


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