The Zombie Zone

I came across a Humans of New York (HONY) post on Facebook today that really caught my attention:


I’ve always had strong thoughts about this desensitization that the mass public goes through during the daily 9-5 of the rat race. I like what this man called this – “The Zombie Zone.” I think it’s actually quite normal to get sucked into the daily routine of going to your job, clocking in, clocking out, and going home just to repeat this the next day. We all have our own obligations and are on our own journeys – whether it’s to save up enough money to pursue your dreams later on, provide for your family, develop your career at the job you currently are at, etc. But it’s also equally common to feel like you’re on “auto-pilot” once you get into a set routine, and to forget about the world that’s going on around  you.

I’ve had my own taste of this – I work in a large, publicly traded financial tech company in Manhattan. I experience that monotonous corporate environment every day. I see the lifeless expressions of countless people as I take public transportation on a daily basis. I don’t know how many times I’ve been in a subway packed with people, shoulder to shoulder, but everyone is in utter silence, plugged into their earphones and/or staring down at their phone screens. In these situations, I have felt like I was in the Matrix, where I was the only one “awake” and the people around me weren’t “real.” Everyone around me often looks like zombies, and I feel myself being sucked into this same trap. Do I know something they don’t or is it the other way around?

But here’s the thing – I know most of these people are thinking the same thing. And immediately when I think these thoughts, I think of a word that I came across a few years ago that I’ve never forgotten:


n. the realization that each random passerby 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.

It’s easy to think you are the center of your own universe – it centers around our consciousness and is based on our own personal experiences. It’s easy to think you’re different/better than the seemingly brainless masses that walk past you on a daily basis to and from work. But it’s important to always keep your perspective, attitudes, and thoughts in check constantly. Understand that everyone around you is on his/her own journey and you definitely don’t know the struggles they’re going through. If you catch yourself feeling superior to the others in the “rat race” because they’ve settled or whatever rationalization you can come up with, ask yourself why you need to have these thoughts about these strangers. What are these thoughts really saying about yourself? Rather think, “What am I doing to improve myself and the journey I’m on? ” If you feel yourself being lost in habit and routine like a zombie, snap out of it and realign yourself and your goals. Begin to have a human awareness of those around you. Try to take in reality as it is, rather than distorting it through the filter of your perceptions, attitudes and biases. I admit it’s hard (for me lately at least) to take in reality objectively and really be aware of your life and the world around you. I do oftentimes feel lost and in a deep haze of habit, confusion, and uncertainty. It happens. But that’s why self-reflection is so important. Wake up. That’s what the age-old adage of “be present in the moment” really means. Don’t waste away precious moments of your life living outside of reality. My favorite motivational speaker, Les Brown, always had a saying:

“Live full, die empty.”

Live full, die empty.