Before I Die Project

My “Before I Die” Project is a series of not just photos or scans, but a series of people who want to be a part of something larger. Our vision is to humanize the faces you see around campus, to remind you not to judge a book by it’s cover, and to teach you that everyone around you feels and thinks the same things. You are not alone. 

How many times have you sat in your car at a red light and wondered what stories hide in the person walking the cross walk? How often does it occur to you that each person you past has an invisible consciousness, a story, a life of their own that you cannot see? We do not have a word for this in English, except for something coined by the author John Koenig, sonder. Sonder is the realization that each random passersby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own—populated with their own ambitions, friends, routines, worries and inherited craziness—an epic story that continues invisibly around you like an anthill sprawling deep underground, with elaborate passageways to thousands of other lives that you’ll never know existed, in which you might appear only once, as an extra sipping coffee in the background, as a blur of traffic passing on the highway, as a lighted window at dusk.

To sonder, is to have that realization. However, that realization comes in and out of our lives like a passing breeze– it is gone before you know it. The purpose of this project is to prolong that curiosity, and the sense of wonder for the world that you experience when considering a consciousness besides your own. The ability to sonder is required when falling in love, to consider that there is someone feeling something from your actions, (someone who is not you.)


As I continue this journey to discover what you cannot see immediately in a stranger, I discover much about myself, and living, and being compassionate. If I could prescribe to the world a cure for ignorance, racism, and un-empathetic apathy, my recommendation would be a hefty dose of sonder. You would be amazed by how much that wonder can do for someone going through life like a machine.

There will be more of these photos to come, many many more, but for now, you can divulge into these few! This is an ongoing project, if you have comments, have been inspired, or would like to be a part of it, please let me know!



By Sarah De Noyo

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