The world is much smaller than we think.
Updated: Jan 31
I used to think if I bumped into someone a lot- it meant we were meant to be. I’d imagine a perfect world in which I work in New York City and during my commute, I’d see the same guy on the subway every day. And each day we’d lock eyes until eventually we’d send smiles, waves. Until finally, one of us would work up the courage to talk and say something like “You look familiar,” and he’d ask for my number and the rest would be history. As if seeing someone constantly means that there’s a reason they are there- it’s a sign from the universe I’m meant to see that particular person. I tend to wonder, wonder why I see the same person on the shuttle to class every day for instance, or all the time on campus, despite ever talking to them.
Instead of assuming it's probably because we have a similar schedule, my mind dreams- dreams of a world in which maybe it isn’t a silly coincidence. Because coincidences don’t exist right?
To analyze this question, I have a story for reference. I fell hard for this guy freshman year of college, and at the time I knew it wasn’t normal- one-time meeting, one-time hook-up does not mean he’s into you, Danielle, even if you hit it off. I should’ve told myself. But back then I was naive, and long story short, he ghosted me. But that isn't the end of the story, not entirely. The story continues with a string of coincidences (or signs perhaps).
For starters, after we met and he ghosted me, I’d always see him on campus, like once a week. And he had been living off campus at the time so I thought that was a little odd, how I’d see him so much when he didn’t even live near me.
Anyway, it couldn’t have been a sign because he never reached out to me- right? But then I kept bumping into him: he went on Birthright at the same time as me (freshman year), and then abroad at the same time (junior year). We hardly talked in either situation and neither of us reached out to each other. I know I wouldn’t, because he rejected me, and the universe has a sense of humor, reminding me of people I don’t want to be reminded of. But as a hopeless romantic, a part of me dreamt it was the start of something bigger, that this pattern meant something more. And I started to notice it more and more, how every time I would forget about his existence, he’d pop up, oh so conveniently, and remind me of the feelings I once had.
It made me angry because it was like a slap in the face, a reminder of the rejection I faced and how I fell too fast for a guy who didn't even care about me.
So flash forward to this past summer before my senior year of college. I knew he was in New York City for the summer because it popped up on my LinkedIn feed (even though we aren’t even LinkedIn friends?). So right off the bat when I saw that I was wondering if I was meant to see it. And I’d imagine us bumping into each other on the streets and catching up, as if he’d even reach out.
And later that summer, when I had forgotten about him again, the pattern resurfaced. My friends and I this past summer would always take the subway to Astor Place in the Lower East Side, Manhattan- the neighborhood that comes alive past 9 pm. It was a normal Saturday night and we stepped on the Subway in Midtown. We were surprised at first because the subway car we stepped in was empty- and that rarely happens in New York, at least not before the hour of 10 pm.
So we sat there until we realized about 10 seconds in- oh the ac doesn’t work, that’s why no one’s in this car. So next stop, we got off that heat-stricken car and hopped onto the one next to us. And there he was sitting at a seat just to the right of us. My heart fluttered, and I realized, if the ac never shut off in that one car I would’ve never known he was on the same subway. I would’ve never gotten into the same subway car he sat in. What are the odds, right? Granted, I don’t think he saw me, but I sure saw him, and wondered if it were a sign or simply the universe having a hell of a sense of humor, how no matter how much I wouldn’t think of him, I’d still “bump” into him.
Oh and it happened again about a month ago- He’s graduated now yet I saw him at the UM gym the Monday after alumni weekend. It's pretty weird how I saw him in Miami when he was only there for about 4 days. But now, I am so used to it- because it keeps happening- and by "it" I mean "bumping" into this specific guy I thought I forgot about.
So freshman year me would think seeing him on the subway a few years later and again at the gym means that I should be seeing him. The hopeless romantic I am led me to believe it was a sign- that he’s always going to pop up, as it had happened several times already in the past.
So how do we determine what’s a sign and what’s a coincidence?
I don't think anyone knows the answer to this question. Coincidences can occur, but just because we see someone a lot throughout our lives, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s them we need. But it is a sign, potentially anyway.
So here's what I took from this long string of "coincidences:" we will always bump into people because the world is smaller than we think; there’s always a friendly face in the same place in this exact moment we are in and we might never know. And maybe we shouldn’t see everything as a sign. Because the world around us is full of coincidences, but the ones that create meaning are the signs, it's just a matter of which coincidences we see and think about.
Seeing people constantly in different times and different places is a reminder of how small our world is- how we will always be experiencing the same sunset and sunrise as someone else and not know them ever. We cross paths with strangers every day, and we rarely turn our heads at every face, unless we recognize them. All our dreams and every person in our dreams is someone we’ve seen and not consciously noticed- but the ones we do notice can be special. But they also might not be at all.
Patterns, signs and coincidences, are all mysteries we won't ever understand fully. But for all the hopeless romantics out there- I think you’ll know when it is a sign; just because you always see the guy who ghosted you doesn’t mean he will not be a guy who ghosts. Maybe seeing him is a sign that you don’t need him. He doesn’t matter. What should matter is where you are now, without him. And that he might just be popping up in your life because you happen to be near each other geographically. And even if you keep seeing him, that doesn’t mean he should be a part of your life.
That guy may have ghosted me- but he's not a ghost, and unfortunately, I will be reminded of that, because the world can't help how small it is.