Writing Prompt: Existential Thoughts at a Stoplight

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Usually my writing prompts are inspired by pictures or quotes, but I thought of something different to stir up some thoughts for today. My prompt for you is on the first time you realized that there are other people in the world.

At first, this sounds a bit strange, but try to think of the first time you realized that there are other people, other stories, going on around you all the time. There are people who you don’t know across the world, but they have thoughts, feelings, and struggles, just like you. There was one moment in your childhood when you realized that the world does not revolve around you. For me, this moment was at a stoplight.

I think I was about seven years old, but I’m not sure. I was in the backseat of my mom’s car on our way to somewhere in the city. A mix of 60’s and 70’s music was playing softly on the radio and I was strapped into my seat tight. We stopped smoothly at a traffic light. I looked over and I saw a middle-aged man. He was dressed in a dress shirt and was alone in the car. I wondered, “What’s his story? What’s he doing with his life? Is he happy? Is he having a good day?”

My brain rambled on with questions about this man until the light changed to green and he sped ahead of us. Although he was out of view, the ideas continued rolling around in my brain, awakening a new thought in the corner of my seven-year-old mind: I’m not alone.

Each car holds a person, and therefore a person’s story.

Photo credit: Horia Varlan/Flickr
Photo credit: Horia Varlan/Flickr

I think stoplights are fascinating. Each person is driving along in their own little world, waiting to go somewhere they’ve probably been to a thousand times. At stoplights, I look around at all the people with road rage, tapping their fingers on the steering wheel, and wonder where they’re going and why they’re in such a hurry. I look at the people who have their heads bowed so reverently, flipping through their Facebook feed as they wait.

Watching cars go by on a highway is interesting because I want to know about the people inside these cars. But to them, I’m just the little blue Subaru going exactly the speed limit that they need to pass on their way to wherever they’re going.

So what about you guys? Have any of you experienced something similar? Share your story in the comments below!

Happy writing

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