From a young age, I have grappled with ideas of transience and permanence. Like many children, I panicked when I couldn’t find my toy or when a parent left the room. I wanted everything to stay where I could see it, in perpetuity. As I’ve grown older, I’ve learned that impermanence imbues adolescence and adulthood, yet I haven’t gotten much better at letting go.
At Yale, we often like to maintain our relationships with people rather than let them slip away. This becomes more difficult as we drift apart from people when we’re no longer in the same seminars or extracurriculars and we don’t have reason to see them regularly. We schedule meals or coffees to catch up with people we haven’t seen in months, but many times our interactions don’t extend past this point. We grab the meal, and we don’t see each other again for months.
Of course, each of us is busy, and we can’t maintain every friendship that begins to slip away and we shouldn’t be expected to. But I think that we could reflect more upon our relationships here and whether we are maintaining them in a shallow way. In other words, we can all try to be more genuine with one another. We all deserve to spend time with those who want to spend time with us, and, to that end, I’ve begun to accept that it’s okay to grow apart from people. It is a natural process, along with the rising and setting of the sun. I’ve always wanted to hold onto people, to remember the meaningful experiences we’ve shared, and therefore I’ve resisted the idea of growing apart. Now, I’ve understood that growing apart doesn’t necessarily mean that those moments have been forgotten, but rather simply that people can coalesce and intersect and move in different directions.
Relatedly, I’ve recently started reflecting on why I’ve always resisted growing apart from people, even when I feel that I’m grasping at threads of fading relationships. Part of the reason, I’ve found, is resistance to the idea of loneliness. And yet, some of my happiest moments at Yale have come from solitude — eating lunch alone in Davenport dining hall, when I can remember the day’s events and classes and moments with friends I bumped into on the streets, or sitting on a bench on Cross Campus, watching people come together and break apart like molecules.
When we understand that solitude is not synonymous with loneliness and accept the inevitability of growing apart from people, we can be much more honest and open with ourselves and others. Recently, I talked with a friend about how sometimes we wish we could strike up conversations with people we want to get to know better or with whom we share common interests and passions, but talking to someone out of the blue might be considered strange. We should move towards erasing this conception, for it limits our own personal growth, barring us from befriending people who might offer us new perspectives. We can become less fixed in our conception of friend groups at Yale, seeing our peers not as people attached to certain social circles or groups but instead just as individuals whose stories we have yet to hear.
A while ago, during fall recess, I took the train back from my suitemate’s home in Manhattan. As I looked around, I noticed a mother with her daughter sleeping on her shoulder, two teenagers sitting in each other’s company and yet both fixated on their phones and a middle-aged man pensively gazing out the window. I did not know any of these people, and yet I wondered about their stories and the precise composition of each of their lives. I thought about how at each hour, several trains filled with sets of completely different people would start on their divergent paths. They would keep coming and going.
Over spring break, I stayed in New Haven and decided to walk through Old Campus one day. I noticed how silent it felt with everyone gone, the trees hunching over, the whole space empty except for the buildings. I thought of all the graduations that took place and would take place here, the chaos of Spring Fling, the groups of students that would soon lay on the grass or on blankets in the sunny weather. Old Campus stood still, and these images shuffled in and out of my mind like the trains, continually coming and going. None of us can know every person on this campus, and none of us can predict or dictate the span of our friendships and relationships. All we can hope to do is to connect with some individuals, even if it is ephemeral, to let them be part of our lives and ourselves part of theirs — and perhaps this itself is meaningful.
Meghana Mysore is a sophomore in Davenport College. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org .