By Haleigh Pannell

One of my favorite quotes of all time is “if you don’t heal what hurt you, you’ll bleed on people who didn’t cut you.” In essence, this means if you don’t address your traumas, you will inadvertently hurt people in your life that don’t deserve it.

I find this to be so powerful because I think we do this to each other every day. His job search isn’t going well, now he’s rude to the barista. Her partner isn’t communicating, now she’s zoned out and her friend feels unheard. They never received an apology from their former bully, now they are mean to anyone and everyone who looks like him. And, on it goes. 

When I saw this quote, I didn’t just think of how much everyone would benefit from some form of therapy to address how their traumas affect how they act. I also thought about the (somewhat) simple fact that we all have trauma. We all have lived equally complex lives, independent of most of the people in the world. This is called “sonder” – a word created by John Koenig in 2012 in the project, The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows. The project’s goal was to create new words for emotions that don’t have a singular word to define it. 

This year is a representation of the project’s goal. 

Between a global pandemic, social tensions, and a polarizing national election where hope was on the line, how would you describe all the emotions that come with living at a time like this? I still struggle to find the perfect words. All I can find is an amplified calling to recognize and embrace the full definition of sonder. To take the pause in typical life that we were given this year and allow others the grace I allow myself. Grace to learn, to make mistakes, to try one path and then try another. 

If 2020 has been the year of acknowledging sonder and grace, 2021 will be the year of love and growth. 

Haleigh is an honor graduate of Longwood College and is planning to pursue a law career. As a sophomore, she founded Promise 16 – a student organization formed to bring mental health and suicide awareness. Visit to learn more about Haleigh.

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