Hard Truth 224: You Can be a Page Turner or a Page Ripper

Today’s post is short. Post five of 30 in my 43 Years in 30 Days series to celebrate my 44th birthday coming up on December 10.

I just want to talk about the person standing next to you for a minute and how they’re a book full of stories.

Pages, for each moment, bound together with a soul.

The person standing next to you’s mother just died.

He had his credit card number stolen and someone drained his bank account last night.

She bought a new pair of socks because they made her smile.

He went to go see his mother in rehab.

He told his girlfriend that he loved her for the first time last night — and it didn’t go well.

She asked her to marry her — and she said yes.

She has the flu but no sick time because she can’t get on the schedule for more than 28 hours a week, which isn’t enough to pay for that college class or food for her kids.

He found out his wife is pregnant. And it’s a good thing.

She found out his mistress is pregnant. And that’s a bad thing.

He just got a bonus check. And he laughed because it’s the exact amount he’s past due on his electric bill.

She just got a bonus check and she laughed. All the way to the bank.

She told her mother this morning that they weren’t coming home for Christmas.

He told his father they were definitely coming home for Christmas, because it could be mom’s last.

She just listened to her boyfriend tell her everything that’s wrong with her for 18 minutes.

She just told her husband everything wrong with their marriage before she left for the train.

He just got his dream job.

She just lost her job, 3 weeks before Christmas.

They’re hoping they get this role they just auditioned for.

He just found out he didn’t get that role.

She can’t wait to leave this place because she doesn’t really know anyone and everyone’s she does know is already talking to someone and that someone isn’t her.

He really wants to go talk to her and say something stupid about almond milk because he likes her yellow hat.

Today’s the day she thinks about her daughter every year, and how she left the house wearing a yellow hat before she was hit and killed by a car.

He just hit a car at a stoplight because his foot slipped and he feels really stupid.

She feels really stupid because she believed him when he said she was the only one.

He told her she was the only one for him and just asked her to move in.

She just moved in and realized that the boiler in his building doesn’t work.

He told his son to have a good day at work yesterday, never thinking his son would have been killed by a cop that same day.

He’s a cop and he saw his partner shoot a man, and now what went down eats at his soul because he can’t reconcile his truth and his partner’s.

Everyone you stand next to…has a story.

One of the hardest lessons I’ve ever had to learn is that my story isn’t the only story out there, even though it’s usually the only one running through my head at any given time. I’m so busy flipping through my pages trying to get to what’s next or better that I forget that the person standing next to me is doing the same.

And it’s easy to get mad when someone steps into our story and messes up how our fucking story is supposed to go.

And it’s easy to forget that we’re the ones who just stepped into their story as well.


So today, as you’re out in the public world, think about the stories that surround you. They’ll crash into the spectrum somewhere between Delightful and good, bad and devastating.


And it’s amazing what a smile, holding a door, not taking that one last seat on the train and instead — offering it to her, not giving a side-eye when the backpack dude slams into you during rush hour, and just…listening and breathing can do for the person next to you with a story. It can either turn the page…or rip it clean out of their book.

Because that person next to you might be me. And I can’t tell you how many days I was grateful for someone stranger next to me who didn’t know my story, but saw I had one, and did that one thing that made me want to smile.

Without ever knowing someone, you can turn a page in their story.

Me, I’d rather be a page turner…than a page ripper.


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