I spent the majority of the weekend in Maryland celebrating a soon-to-be-bride. It was lovely, but left little time to write. Still, even without a keyboard or pen, I could recognize myself as a writer. There were so many stories that went through my head. There were so many moments when I grew quiet, searching for the right words, working my way towards an idea.
On the drive home, I sat silently in the back seat, watching farms come and go from view, catching glimpses of houses among crowded trees, reading signs for small businesses that couldn’t possibly be thriving. I thought deeply about each one.
I am always thinking of others. I try my best to always be considerate, but more than that, I am always considering. I know that there is always more than one story to be told. There are endless possibilities. There are so many different ways of seeing.
I don’t recognize myself as a writer because I write, but because I know how to look at the world from different angles. I know that I must. I understand empathy. I feel it. I believe it to be the most important trait I can have as a writer and a human being. I recognize myself as a writer because I recognize myself in everyone else.
Driving past these other lives, I considered all of the many ways my own life could be different. Not better, not worse, just different. The slightest changes in circumstance or choice could have led me somewhere else entirely. I could be someone else entirely. I could be any one of these people, here.
We live our lives differently, and in some ways, singularly. Our exact experiences cannot be repeated by anyone else. Your life is uniquely yours.
But life itself belongs to all of us. We are connected in this deeply meaningful way. We are all working, and sometimes struggling, to survive. We all hope for happiness. We all keep moving forward until we reach the end.
Too often we forget this. We forget to consider that each of our personal stories is only a small piece of the larger human story we are all constructing, together. This forgetting makes us inconsiderate. We learn to see only one way when many ways exist. There are endless possibilities. We are endlessly possible.
Empathy is as simple as remembering. It is as easy as looking at another and seeing our shared humanity. It is the greatest lesson in understanding and compassion that I have ever learned. It is essential, not because I owe it to anyone else, or they owe it to me, but because we owe it to each other, which is something different.
On the drive back, I made connections. I wrote stories in my head. I pieced them all together and created something larger, something new. I thought of all the lives I am not living, and the one I am. I considered the possibilities all around me. I hoped for happiness.
I stared out across fields coming in and out of view. I worked towards an idea. I thought of others. I got closer and closer to home.