"I always had the deepest affection for people who carried sublime tears in their silences." — Virginia Woolf
H&M bell-sleeves top // Zara black top // Aeropostale boyfriend jeans // Mango boots // Gentle Mayhem Eternity necklace
There is no sincerer connection between two humans than compassion. It's the rawest emotion we can give one another without having to personally know each other. It's the natural beauty of understanding that we all have our grievances and sometimes all we need is someone to feel for us when we can't feel for ourselves. I experienced one of the most beautiful encounters with a total stranger recently and it was a moment that will be forever engrained in my heart.
After one long and dreary weekday, I was on the subway plugged into my moody, acoustic playlist, desperately trying to drown out the thoughts corrupting my mind of all the wrong things going on at that moment. The weight so heavily burdening and maddening that I wanted to just cry or scream or both, hoping it would relieve even an ounce of the pain. But I couldn't because I was in the face of unfamiliar, scurried New Yorkers. So there I sat in the corner of the subway, carrying a stress I couldn't ease, muddling in the pits of my despair, and struggling to find an escape. Little tears streamed down as I quickly and subtly wiped them from the corner of my eyes, making sure no one else noticed my pathetic demeanor. The next stop came, people hustled in and out, so unencumbered next to my dreary state. An older white-haired lady with a cart of bags straddled in and sat across from me. At first, I paid no attention. Ignored her as I did the rest of the strangers on the subway. But then I noticed her gestures mimicked mine. She was looking out in the blank air, every so often raising her arm and wiping the corners of her eyes. I stared a while longer, her eyes welling up with heavy droplets, and realized we were feeling the same thing. She, too, was silently crying, quickly concealing, and subtly in pain. In this moment, while enduring my sadness, I felt the most beautiful connection to this woman. I felt so much less alone, and greatly relieved that someone understood the same kind of pain. Maybe not in the way I'd initially intended, and my problems weren't solved, but I felt relieved in knowing that right then and there, someone else was also carrying emotional weight, and we were both just trying to get through it, together and quite fatedly. I empathized for her. I felt like her grief was my grief. I wanted to reach out and hug her. Maybe we would cry together, never having explained why, but sharing our pains in compassionate gesture. Looking back, I wish I had knowing now that this will be my favorite moment with someone I didn't know, having no interaction other than the shared world of personal struggle. Sometimes the best encounters are ones that can only be felt, and not seen.
It's a moment I'll never forget, and if I walked away from it with anything, it was that we are all connected no matter how much we are strangers. Our empathy for each other aerates a relationship that holds us up together. We share emotions and we share the struggles of being human. And that is enough to never feel alone.
Photography by William Coles