Why everything happens for a reason

Last year, I was scrolling through TikTok when I came across the word “sonder,” which I haven’t stopped thinking about since. 

Coined by Swiss-American writer John Koenig in his “Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows,” sonder is “the feeling you get when realising everyone around you has a rich and complex life just as you do.” 

When I came across this word last year, I was sitting on my round, cream-colored sofa in my living room at home, thinking about how much I wanted to leave the house. At the time, COVID-19 restrictions wasted a bright, blue and sunny day — people were left with no choice but to stay at home.

These physical restrictions — on top of feeling isolated and separated from everyone else — exacerbated the decline of the mental health and wellbeing of most people, including myself.

person sitting atop a mountain
A person sitting atop a mountain. Mayela writes about the gap year she took as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic to reflect on how all of life’s moments — good or bad — contain a reason for unfolding the way they do. COURTESY OF JOHN CHRISTIAN FJELLESTAD VIA CREATIVE COMMONS

Naturally, staying at home with nothing much to do drew me into the rabbit hole of feeling down, depressed and dispirited. This was partly due to the fact that even before the pandemic, I had made a last-minute decision to take a gap year instead of entering my freshman year of college at George Washington University. 

Due to complications with my I-20 ––an essential document for international students studying in the United States –– I decided to withdraw from the university because I had missed a significant portion of the semester. I was devastated, and I wasn’t sure the International Services Office at GW would have my I-20 issues resolved in time for the second semester to begin. 

I refused to take any chances regarding my legal status in the country, so taking a gap year was the best alternative I could think of at the time. To say that my gap year experience was amazing is an understatement.

Not only did I get to pursue my interests in a gap year program that focused on French and International Relations –– subjects I am studying at Boston University –– but I was also able to embrace experiences and create friendships I never thought I would have.

So if it weren’t for the mishaps, then I wouldn’t have made the best of what would have been my first year of college during a gap year. If COVID-19 restrictions weren’t as strict as they were in Jakarta, then I wouldn’t have spent as much meaningful time as I did in the past year with my parents, grandparents, cousins, friends, aunts and uncles.

Everyone has their own stories, and everyone comes with their own baggage. We’re all human, and although we prefer to feel joy and happiness, being human also comes with feelings of grief, sadness, loneliness and pain.

So whenever you feel down, remember you’re not alone. Like the word sonder, all lives come with complexities and intricacies of their own.

But most importantly, we need to accept and come to terms with the unexpected when situations don’t go our way. It’s one thing to understand why certain events happen in our lives, but it’s another to accept why they happen. When you do, you will see that each moment –– good or bad –– has a purpose, a lesson to teach you and a reason for unfolding the way it does.

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